THE importance of Michael Murphy to Glenswilly’s hopes of remaining in the top flight of the All-County League couldn’t have been further emphasised as the county captain struck nine points against Gaoth Dobhair in Magheragallon on Sunday.
Gaoth Dobhair 1-9
Murphy lined out in his club colours for the first time this season but despite a battling performance from his side to come from six points down with 14 men after Joe Gibbons was dismissed for two yellows, a point wasn’t what either party wanted.
With the bottom of Division One becoming an increasingly problematic minefield, it was hosts Gaoth Dobhair who played with the wind in the first half on their home patch. By the interval, few were certain whether or not their 0-6 to 0-3 advantage was enough.
Murphy scored three first half frees, piercing the ball over the crossbar of Christopher Sweeney on each occasion and the first of them opened the day’s scoring.
However, with handling the conditions part of their make-up, Gaoth Dobhair turned that one-point arrears into a three-point lead when Colin Ferry scored from a placed ball, Tómas Diver knocked over and James Gallagher was on the mark with a couple of frees.
Murphy pulled one back before Diver scored another scrumptious effort from distance, using the breeze to inflate the sails. After Murphy again registered, Gallagher scored the point of the half, with an excellent effort from the sideline.
With Diver having hobbled off in the closing stages of the half, to be replaced by Cathal Mulligan, Gaoth Dobhair lost one of their prime attacking threats as the half drew to a close.
In the second period, Murphy was again on the money from a free, although this time he was wind-assisted. However, just when they seemed to be making headway, Glenswilly’s progressed was rocked when Ronan MacNiallais scored the first goal of the afternoon on 35 minutes.
Ferry’s free wasn’t presumably intended for the square, but after the corner-forward’s effort at a point from a free juggled unpredictably and came back to earth in front of the posts instead of over them, MacNiallais slapped past Ciaran Molloy to establish a healthy lead, 1-6 to 0-4.
Glenswilly had little option to throw the kitchen sink at Gaoth Dobhair and after a give and go with Aidan McDevitt, Murphy was unfortunate to see his powerful drive shave the crossbar and obtain a white flag and not a green one.
Joe Duffy, for Gaoth Dobhair, pointed from another useful forage into the wind by the hosts to reclaimed his team’s five-point advantage. Then came a moment of controversy, though, as referee Kieran McShea decided a Murphy free was wide and not over as the umpires – one from each club – had differing opinions.
At the time the importance of the incident was undecided but it would swell in value the longer the game went on. It appeared to matter little all the same after Frank McGee scored another Gaoth Dobhair point, putting them 1-8 to 0-5 ahead, before Gibbons was dismissed for a second yellow following a trip on MacNiallais.
Glenswilly manager Manus McFadden opted to stiffen his midfield with full-back Eamon Ward elevated from the back and the Clontibret native soon got his team back into the game.
After another Murphy free, Kealan McFadden carried possession forward and fed substitute Gerard McGrenra, who might’ve went for goal himself, before laying off for Ward. Amid a clutter of bodies, he managed to poke the ball in off the post for a vital Glenswilly goal.
Buoyed on with the increased belief and dominating at centre-field, things were still in the melting pot. Murphy popped over two more frees to level matters and then scored an exquisite ninth point of the day, holding off four challenges before slotting over from an uncompromising angle on the right.
But Gaoth Dobhair are known to have an element of inner-strength themselves and refused to buckle. Gallagher levelled from another free to put the seal on a feisty second half and one that will carry on into the club championship when the sides face one another again next month.
Ferry and Murphy both had tough frees to win the game and in turn do a little to dissolve the respective relegation fears for either team but the match will prove to be a soundbyte for the league campaigns of each – nothing will be decided for sure till the last ball is kicked.
Gaoth Dobhair: Christopher Sweeney; Manus Weed, Neil McGee, Ciaran Ferry; Joe Duffy (0-1), Eamon McGee, Donal McBride; Peter McGee, Ronan MacNiallais (1-0); Tomas Diver (0-2), Frank McGee (0-1), Micheál McKelvey; Colin Ferry (0-1, 1f), James Gallagher (0-4, 4f), Noel Kelly. Sub: Cathal Mulligan for Diver (29).
Glenswilly: Ciaran Molloy; Rory McDaid, Eamon Ward (1-0), Brian McDaid; Joe Gibbons, Ruairí Crawford, Ryan Hunter; Neil Gallagher, Charley Bonner; Aidan McDevitt, Darren McGinley, Caolan Kelly; Keelan McFadden, Michael Murphy (0-9, 7f), Leon Kelly. Sub: Gerard McGrenra for McGinley (48).
Referee: Kieran McShea (MacCumhaills).