Ardara held off a determined effort from Glenfin to plant one foot firmly in the quarter-finals after they secured a four-point win yesterday afternoon.
In a niggly and sometimes physical encounter, the hosts edged the first period and but for some poor shooting, could easily have exited at the break with a little more breathing space than the two points that eventually separated the sides at the interval.
After the turnaround, Gerard Ward pushed his side 0-9 to 0-6 clear with a superb effort from the wide right touchline. But with Ardara on the ropes, the most unlikely of saviours in the form of corner back Pat Gallagher, bailed the visitors out in spectacular fashion when he crashed in a 38th minute goal to drag his side level.
However, with that score coming against the run of play, Glenfin didn’t let their heads drop and back they came with overs from the boots of Gerard Ward and substitute Malachy Martin to regain a lead that had momentarily swapped hands after Peter McNelis had pointed up the other end.
However, with so much at stake for Glenfin, things began to get a little heated and referee Michael McShane certainly had his hands full from the midpoint of the second-half, when Martin Shovlin tied matters up on a scoreline of 0-11 to 1-8, right up until the full-time whistle.
Sporadic but messy tangles saw things threaten to boil over completely on a number of occasions with Paddy McGrath, in particular, coming in for considerable attention as Ardara finally seemed to be getting to grips with their game opponents.
Prior to Shovlin’s intervention, Kevin McGlynn and Gerard Ward pushed their side two to the good once again on 40 minutes. However, with Adrian Brennan able to spring the likes of Conor Classon and Gareth Concarr from the bench in the second-half, a powerful last quarter from the away charges saw them over the line.
The big score of the game came 11 minutes from the final whistle when Shovlin’s directness forced the Glenfin rearguard to drag him to the ground unceremoniously leaving Michael McShane with little option other than to point to the spot.
Gareth Concarr clinically dispatched the resulting penalty kick to push Ardara back into the lead for only the second time - but it was a lead they would not surrender for the rest of the contest.
It had all started so differently for Glenfin. Having lost out to MacCumhaills in their opening championship game last time out, the home charges needed to make home advantage count at the weekend.
They led 0-3 to 0-2 at the quarter hour mark when Kieran Moy, Gerard Ward and Michael McGlynn all cleared the crossbar. Ardara hit back through Brendan McNelis and Brendan Boyle but Glenfin were edging proceedings in most areas of the pitch with Kevin McGlynn in particularly fine form in the centre-half-forward berth.
Stephen Boyle then tied the contest up on three a piece, but four on the bounce from Glenfin put them firmly in the driving seat nine minutes out from the interval. Kevin McGlynn, Gerard Ward, substitute Malachy Martin and Kieran Moy grabbed those scores. But with Brendan McNelis nailing two massive frees from distance, the gap was back to two ninety seconds out from the short whistle.
And there was still time for Gerard Ward and McNelis (free) to register at either end and two remained the difference as both sides retreated back to the changing rooms for half-time.
With tempers flaring a bruising third quarter saw Ardara emerge out the other end with a one-point lead after Concarr had dispatched from the spot. And with the fresh legs of Classon and Conarr to the fore late on, closing points from Peter McNelis, Brendan Boyle and Martin Shovlin propelled Ardara out to a four-point winning margin that was, on reflection, perhaps a little flattering.
With Glenfin allowing their frustrations to get the better of them once again in the dying moments, midfielder Michael McGlynn ‘walked’ after he was flashed a second yellow card.
For the victors, Paddy McGrath, Pat Gallagher and Brendan McNelis impressed most, while for Glenfin, Kevin McGlynn, Gerard Ward and Stephen McDermott were to the fore throughout.
Ardara: Declan Gallagher; Kevin Breslin: Declan Gavigan: Paddy McGrath; Pat Gallagher (1-0): Matthew Maher: Stephen Boyle (0-1); Kenneth Doherty: Brendan McNelis (0-4,3f); Kieran Breslin: Brendan Boyle (0-2): Kevin Byrne; Peter McNelis (0-2): Stephen McHugh: Martin Shovlin (0-1). Subs: Nicholas Breslin for S. Boyle, Gareth Concarr (1-0, pen), for M. Maher, Conor Classon for K. Byrne.
Glenfin: Andrew Walsh; Shaun Harkin: Mark McGinty: Gareth Martin; Gary Dorrian: Gavin McDermott: Daniel McGlynn; Michael McGlynn (0-1): Stephen McDermott; Stephen McGlynn: Kevin McGlynn (0-2): Ciaran Foy: Gerard Ward (0-6, 1f): Kieran Moy (0-2,2f): Conor Ward. Subs: Malachy Martin (0-2) for S. McGlynn, Ronan Gallagher for S. Harkin, Paddy Costello for C. Ward, Stephen McGlynn for G. Martin.
Referee: Michael McShane (Kilcar).