THERE wasn’t much between Letterkenny Gaels and Robert Emmets for the most part and nothing at the end as it concluded honours even in their Junior A football championship opener at Pairc na Gael on Sunday.
LETTERKENNY GAELS 0-8
ROBERT EMMETS 0-8
The home side were the better team in the first half but in the end were indebted to the abilities of Mark Hunter, who scored the last two points of the day to give Letterkenny Gaels a fighting chance ahead of the second leg in Castlefin.
On the other hand, Robert Emmets might be slightly disappointed not to have taken the win but can fancy themselves before moving home for part two.
League form would’ve suggested a win for the team managed by Dessie McFeely, who currently top the All-County League Division Four and are 10 points in front of Sunday’s opponents in the standings.
The league fixture between the respective parties at the same venue in April ended up in a 2-12 to 0-5 Robert Emmets win but despite that astuteness in front of goal, they managed just one point from play on Sunday.
Championship season sees an upping of games and it was Letterkenny Gaels who went in at half-time two points to the good, 0-5 to 0-3.
Well-taken scores from Aaron Stewart, Hunter and Conor McBrearty were cancelled out by a pair of frees from Mark Lafferty and a Jonathan McLaughlin effort.
Gaels, though, finished the first half strongly and after McBrearty edged them in front, the same player then scored a precise long-range free right on the whistle to boost the chances of an upset further.
The second half saw a slight dip in the hosts’ fortunes, while their guests took heart and took advantage. Three successive frees from Lafferty turned a two-point Robert Emmets deficit into a marginal surplus at a stage in the match when Gaels’ shot selection was nowhere near as wise as it had been previously.
Letterkenny Gaels did momentarily get over their difficult third quarter when Colm Breslin scored their first point in 19 minutes to square things up at 0-6 apiece but they failed to build on that momentum.
Robert Emmets were in the ascendency in the final 10 minutes when Lafferty popped over his sixth free of the day and McLaughlin his second point to establish what appeared to be a pretty concrete lead.
When Hunter missed a scoreable free from right in front of the posts the beaten docket looked to be that of Letterkenny Gaels but the corner-forward more than made up for that indiscretion.
He seized Adam McConnell’s resultant kick-out and drove right at the heart of the Robert Emmets defence to half the arrears.
Then, in the first minute of stoppage time, as Gaels threw the kitchen sink at the visitors, Gerard Gibbons tried to level up matters but his shot dropped short and lobbed McConnell, only to strike the angle of post and crossbar.
Paddy Dooher was happy to clear behind for a 45. Hunter then stood over the kick and his effort was crisp and accurate, splitting the posts for a draw, one that didn’t look overly likely in the closing minutes but one that was probably deserved.
Letterkenny Gaels: Ethan Mulrennan; Cillian Skinnader, Tommy Daly, Darren Hunter; Ciaran Cannon, Kevin Kilkenny, Nicky McGarrigle; Aaron Bradley, Gerard Gibbons; Aaron Stewart (0-1), John Doran, Colm Breslin (0-2); Conor McBrearty (0-2, 2f), Charlie Creevey, Mark Hunter (0-3, 1f, 45): Sub: James McGlynn for Doran (45).
Robert Emmets: Adam McConnell; Paddy Dooher, Mark Lafferty, Damien McEnaney; Marcus Curran, Dominic McGlinchey, Sean Coyle; Brian Harvey, Simon McMenamin; Jonathan McLaughlin (0-2, 1f); Marty McCrossan, Chris Bryson; Darren Larkin, Michael Lafferty (0-6, 6f), John Hunter.
Referee: Don Langan (St Michael’s)