SEVEN consecutive second half points were enough for Ardara to put the disappointment of losing last weekend’s minor championship final as they sealed a consolation in the form of a Division One league title at a wet and windy O’Donnell Park on Sunday.
Aaron Bennett scored two late frees, one to level matters and the second to force his side in front and as the Falcarragh team were pushing on for a draw, it was left to Nicholas Breslin to confirm the win.
It all could have been so different for Cloughaneely, who looked to have established a sturdy foundation when John Fitzgerald cut through the Ardara defence to score the only goal of the game 20 seconds after the restart. That made for a 1-6 to 0-4 lead but Cloughaneely, instead of driving home their advantage, merely stopped. They would not score so much as a single point in the final 29 minutes.
Ardara started well with Tomas Boyle and a Bennett brace giving them a 0-3 to 0-1 lead with just eight minutes gone. Cloughaneely’s first point came from a Martin Ferry effort but with John McGarvey scoring twice and Ferry on the mark again, a two-point deficit was turned into a one-point lead.
James Coll was denied a Cloughaneely goal when Aidan Shovlin between the Ardara posts made a save that got more important the longer the game went on. Patrick White scored a smartly-taken point for Ardara to level it up, but it was Cloughaneely who finished the half strongly with Ferry and McGarvey, with a free, on target to establish a two-point cushion, 0-6 to 0-4, at the break.
Cloughaneely’s start to the second half was excellent, when Fitzgerald grabbed their goal, but four efforts at points – all of which went wide – from then ‘til the end made for poor reading. Ardara gradually eked down their arrears, with Owen O’Donnell and Bennett on target but Cloughaneely had chances at the other end for goal. Ferry was denied by Shovlin in a one-on-one, which was right after McGarvey went through and hit the side netting with only the goalkeeper to beat.
Still trailing by three, Ardara rolled up their sleeves in the final six minutes, when they scored five points to swing the balance of power. Bennett started the procession with a free and after Breslin stroked over from play, Bennett levelled matters. In time added on, Bennett scored a fine free from distance before wing-back Breslin rubber-stamped the victory, which was a medicinal one after the 3-7 to 0-3 loss at St Eunan’s hands in the championship final last week. Sunday’s fare, though, made for a much happier return journey to Kentucky.
Ardara: Aidan Shovlin; Shaun McLaughlin, Neil Campbell, Ryan Sweeney; Shaun McGuinness, Cillian Boyle, Nicholas Breslin (0-2); Kelvin Slowey, Patrick White (0-1); Kevin Herron, Aaron Bennett (0-6, 4f), Owen O’Donnell (0-1); Michael Maloney, Ryan Melly, Tomas Boyle (0-1). Subs: Kyle Gallagher for McGuinness (52 mins); Paul Gallagher for
O’Donnell (54 mins).
Cloughaneely: Shaun McClafferty; Lee O’Brien. Cian McFadden, Anthony Brady; Brian Geeney, Patrick Curran, Martin Ferry; Stephen Rodden, Sean Gallagher; Daniel Roarty, John Fitzgerald (1-0), John McGarvey (0-3, 3f); James Coll, Sean McGarvey, Martin Ferry (0-3). Sub: Ciaran Ferry for O’Brien (57 mins).
Referee: James McGlynn (Milford).