Seeing as the other three quarter-finals were essentially derbies perhaps it was only right to see old rivals Ardara and Kilcar complete the quartet.
In the only remaining first round encounter - the outstanding one as some tend to call it - Patrick Gallagher’s side, depleted as they were, brushed aside a stubborn Cloughaneely and developed a little bit of momentum while they did it at O‘Donnell Park on Saturday night. Having scored 2-9 in the home leg and 2-9 away against the Falcarragh side, Noel Gallagher’s late score meant lighting wouldn’t strike for a third time. Only just.
With Donegal’s involvement in the All-Ireland series meaning no club championship will be contested till September, Gallagher will have some time to work with in an attempt to ease their injuries. Thomas Maguire, Gareth Concarr, Brendan Boyle, Damian Diver and Martin Sweeney’s various complaints meant they played no part in Letterkenny, while Conor Classon should be back from the United States come the quarter-final. What looked like outgoings on the ledger can now be accounted for as income.
After a close first half, one in which Ardara departed the scene two points in front, the 2009 league champions motored clear thanks to a fruitful third quarter. Four minutes into part two, Kevin Byrne peeked through the curtains to find a gap in the Cloughaneely defence and powered through only to see his sizzling shot block by the foot of Paddy McClafferty and referee Shaun McLaughlin signalled for a penalty, which Stephen Gildea duly dispatched.
Still with their foot on the pedal, Ardara scored a second goal within just six minutes when Stephen McHugh was on hand to complete a fine move, after Jimmy O’Connell was the architect, to smash past Michael McGinley and make it 2-7 to 0-6.
A scattering of points fell around the two goals at either end, with Kevin Herron and Peter McNelis on target for Ardara, while Denis Boyle and a couple of Brian Cuffe efforts were all a demoralised Cloughaneely could muster in the second half. Cuffe put his foot through the ball going for goal and almost got it only for Declan Gallagher to save excellently for the concession of a point. As the ball dropped harmlessly behind the goal, with the Cuffe’s chance went his team’s.
Ardara started and finished the first half stronger and as a consequence were valued at their 0-6 to 0-4 lead, although Cloughaneely had enterprising spells here and there. Martin Shovlin and Jimmy O’Connell’s two opening scores were quickly dissolved by Cloughaneely’s Denis Boyle and Sean McBride before Stephen Gildea and Shaun McGarvey swapped points to make it three apiece.
Cloughaneely led for the first time when McBride popped over but when they lost McGarvey, who hobbled off before the break, their odds lengthened. And as the half edged to a close Ardara turned a one-point deficit into their interval lead with Herron and a Shovlin brace.
But whatever margin they had by the break, was stretched to a comfortable gulf before full-time and there is time to look forward and take stock before Kilcar rolls around. Cloughaneely: Michael McGinley; Joe Gallagher, Paddy McClafferty, Kevin Doohan; Ciaran Scanlon, Kevin Mulhern, Eugene Maguire; Joe Friel, Michael McCausla nd; Shaun McGreevy (0-1), Denis Boyle (0-2,1f), Brian Cuffe (0-2); Darren McGeever, Sean Maguire, Sean McBride (0-2). Subs: Paul Sweeney for McGarvey (30), Ciaran McFadden for McCausland (41)
Ardara: Declan Gallagher; Eamonn Doherty, Declan Gavigan, Kevin Breslin; Paddy McGrath, Kenneth Doherty, Matthew Maher; Kevin Byrne, Jimmy O’Connell (0-1); Peter McNelis (0-1), Stephen McHugh (1-0), Kevin Herron (0-2); Stephen Gildea (1-2, pen, 1f), Peter McHugh, Martin Shovlin (0-3). Subs: Ciaran Breslin (0-1) and Brendan McNelis for Herron and P McHugh (45), Stephen Boyle for K Byrne (50), Noel Gallagher for S Gildea (56), Oisin O’Donnell for M Maher (60)
Referee: Shaun McLaughlin (Malin).
Shaun McLaughlin showed a bit of leniency when some of the crowd were howling for more decisive action on occasion. However, the Malin official couldn’t really be faulted for that and had a decent enough game.
Ardara had a new impetus in the second half and for a contest that was perhaps definable as nip-and-tuck to begin with, Stephen Gildea’s penalty swung the balance of power in favour of his team and they never looked back from there.
Man of the Match
All the best performers wore the green and gold of Ardara on an evening then they had a number of star performers, particular in the forwards. The usual suspects Stephen Gildea and Stephen McHugh were at the heart of everything but Martin Shovlin’s two points when things were in the melting pot helped his side get away Stephen Gildea of Ardara pusheswhile Denis Boyle of Cloughaneely awaiting developments in the SFC first round play-off at O’Donnell Park on Saturday night