A dramatic last minute goal from Aaron Bennett that trickled over the line sealed victory for Ardara over Naomh Padraig from Lifford in the Mount Errigal Hotel Junior B Championship on Saturday night.
NAOMH PADRAIG, LIFFORD.....0-6
With the game appearing to slip away from Ardara with time thin on the ground, Bennett showed awareness to react the fastest after Jonathan Boyle’s shot at goal came back down off the upright.
The full-foward’s shot across Shane Brennan wasn’t the cleanest and the goalkeeper got a hand on the effort but it sneaked in for the decisive moment.
The victory was perhaps something of a surprise for the side from Pearse Park, who lost no fewer than 11 players before the match as a consequence of their involvement in the Senior Reserve championship.
Important players like Damian Diver, Don Early, Stephen Gildea, Stephen McCahill and Ryan Sweeney were forced absentees but the vacuum their withdrawals created was eagerly filled.
Credit, therefore, must go to the joint-management team of Daniel Sweeney and Matthew Whyte for assembling a pick and mix panel of youth and experience capable of getting over the line.
The first half was blighted with poor shooting by both teams. Nerves might’ve played a part in that but by the interval Naomh Padraig had clocked up seven wides to Ardara’s four. The scoreboard was infrequently interrupted, with the teams gridlocked at 0-2 to 0-2.
David Friel pointed from a placed ball to give Donal Grant and Shane Brennan’s Naomh Padraig the lead but points from play from Bennett and then Michael Doherty edged Ardara in front halfway through the first period, only for Friel to score from play to ensure interval parity.
Caginess wasn’t a criticism that could’ve been levelled at the participants and both were game in their attacking escapades, although the execution was occasionally lacking. Three times in the second half, Naomh Padraig eked one-point leads.
Gavin McCullagh, another free from Friel and Paul Carlin were the point-scorers for the side from the border, while Aaron Bennett and substitute Boyle managed to get Ardara back on the first two of those occasions.
That meant that Carlin’s point looked like it was going to be the telling score with the Lifford side 0-6 to 0-5 up, only for things to be rounded off in thrilling fashion for Ardara, while Naomh Padraig will wonder what might’ve been.
Ardara: Hugh Shovlin; Martin Sweeney, Eamon Breslin, Harry Hennigan; Darren McNelis, Martin McShane, Kyle Gallagher; Dermot Curristan, Dessie O’Brien; Kevin Gallagher (0-1), Michael Doherty, Gerard McCabe; Martin Bennett (0-1), Aaron Bennett (1-2), Shaun McGuinness. Subs: Joe Doherty for Gallagher (half-time), Jonathan Boyle for Hennigan (34), Patrick Gallagher for McGuinness (42), Ted Breslin for McShane (53)
Naomh Padraig, Lifford: Shane Brennan; Martin McHugh, John Lafferty, Damien Tourish; Paul McNulty, Damien Gamble, Matthew Carlin; Paul Carberry, Steve Devine; Paul Carlin (0-1), Shane Gallagher, David Friel (0-3, 2f); Alan Gethins, Daniel McNulty, Colin Carlin. Subs: Michéal Ferry for McNulty (half-time), Gavin McCullagh (0-2) for C Carlin (40), James McNulty for C McNulty (48), C Carlin for Gethins (58).
Referee: Paddy McKeever (Glenfin).