Veteran Hegarty gives Naomh Columba a second chance

Peter Campbell at Ti


Peter Campbell at Ti

Two points from veteran Noel Hegarty in the 58th and 61st minutes saved Naomh Columba’s bacon in the Intermediate semi-final in Tirconaill Park, Donegal Town on Sunday.

Two points from veteran Noel Hegarty in the 58th and 61st minutes saved Naomh Columba’s bacon in the Intermediate semi-final in Tirconaill Park, Donegal Town on Sunday.

Naomh Colmcille 0-8

Naomh Columba 0-8

Naomh Colmcille led all the way in this encounter and with Glen having difficulty finding the range, it seemed as if last year’s junior champions were about to pull off another shock victory.

Led by the impressive Barry O’Hagan, Naomh Colmcille dominated the opening half and their crowded defence had Naomh Columba at sixes and sevens and they were full value for the 0-5 to 0-2 half-time lead.

Naomh Columba - thanks to the introduction of Noel ‘Freddie’ McGinley - were much livelier in the second half but poor finishing left them still trailing by two points as time ran out, but then up stepped veteran Noel Hegarty to hit two great scores to level the match.

Naomh Colmcille looked as if they were enjoying life in the higher grade in the opening half. Pauric Gillespie opened the scoring from a free for Naomh Columba on two minutes, but then the Newtown men took over and led by 0-5 to 0-1 after 19 minutes. Matthew Crossan fired the first two within seconds of each other in the third minute (the second courtesy of a poor kick-out from Pauric O’Donnell).

Ciaran O’Callaghan got the third while Barry O’Hagan added two more in the 15th and 19th minutes.

Oisin McGinley finally got a second for Naomh Columba on 23 minutes and the Glen men had two goal chances before the break with Dara O’Donnell denied on each occasion, the second after Declan McGuire broke through and found O’Donnell but his palmed effort was somehow taken off the line by Alex Devenney.

The concern in the Naomh Columba sideline was underlined by the introduction of Noel Hegarty after 24 minutes and they started the second half well with Michael Byrne pointing inside two minutes.

But a mistake in the Glen defence gave Matthew Crossan an easy reply as Noel McGinley was also introduced for Naomh Columba.

McGinley was involved immediately putting Oisin McGinley through and he elected to take a point with just the ‘keeper to beat.

Barry O’Hagan stretched the Naomh Colmcille lead after Thomas McKinley was fouled but Naomh Columba hit back with a bizarre point as a Pauric Gillespie free from fully 60m and near the sideline was allowed to hop over the bar.

A free from Michael Byrne on 48 minutes reduced the leeway to the minimum but Naomh Colmcille could have put the game beyond Naomh Columba when they were caught short at the back and Matthew Crossan got clear but ‘keeper Pauric O’Donnell made a great stop as Crossan tried to chip him and he also followed up to punch clear.

Barry O’Hagan won and pointed a great free from 40m to put his side two clear again in the 52nd minute but just when it seemed it was all over, veteran Hegarty popped up with two great late points to tie the game up. Indeed, Naomh Columba had the chance to win the game with the last kick, but Michael Byrne’s effort was just short. It was touched onto the crossbar by Gerard Curran but was cleared as the final whistle went.

In the end a draw was probably a fair result with Naomh Columba having goal chances in the opening half while Matthew Crossan could have closed it out for Naomh Colmcille in the second.

The other big talking point from the game was the displays of the veteran players on both sides, most notably Noel Hegarty (close to his 42nd birthday), Noel McGinley and Barry O’Hagan. Others to perform well were Kieran McBrearty, Barry Carr and Pauric Gillespie for Naomh Columba while Matthew Crossan, Ryan McErlean, Joe Donaghy and substitute Ryan McKinley were excellent for Naomh Colmcille.

Naomh Colmcille: Marty Callaghan; Mark Callaghan, Alex Devenney, Paul Friel; Gerard Curran, Anthony Grant, Thomas McKinley; Willie Gillespie, Ciaran Devine; Eddie Gillespie, Barry O’Hagan (0-4,2f), Ciaran Callaghan (0-1); Ryan McErlean, Joe Donaghy, Matthew Crossan (0-3). Subs., Ryan McKinley for E Gillespie 40.

Naomh Columba: Pauric O’Donnell; Barry Carr, Kieran McBrearty, Martin Cunningham; Clement O’Gara, Kevin Beag Cunningham, Kenneth Byrne; Kevin Cunningham, Andrew O’Gara; Declan McGuire, Oisin McGinley (0-2), Dermot McGuire; Dara O’Donnell, Pauric Gillespie (0-2,2f), Michael Byrne (0-2,1f). Subs., Noel Hegarty (0-2) for K Beag Cunningham 24; Noel McGinley for K Cunningham 34.

Referee: Robbie O’Donnell (N Mhuire)

Man of the match

Noel Hegarty has to be mentioned; also Matthew Crossan, Kieran McBrearty, but the player who stood out from start to finish was former Armagh All-Ireland winner, Barry O’Hagan, who added a touch of class to everything he did, scoring and picking passes.

Turning point

Has to be those final two points from Noel Hegarty. Cometh the hour and cometh the man. A man for all seasons and they were needed.

Ref watch

Robbie O’Donnell kept a firm grip from start to finish and while Naomh Columba were complaining at half-time and Naomh Colmcille at the final whistle, overall he had a good game.