IT’LL go down in black and white on record but the scoreline on a dusking Friday evening in Glenties only goes a fraction of the way to explaining the drama the footballers of Dungloe and Gaoth Dobhair served up in the Minor League semi-final.
Gaoth Dobhair 3-5
At one stage in the second half, Tony Boyle’s Dungloe trailed their neighbours by eight points and, for them, the match appeared to be meandering out to sea. But after chizzling into Gaoth Dobhair’s lead, in the fourth minute of stoppage time David McCarron cut inside from the right flank and unleashed an unstoppable shot to tie things up at 2-8 to Gaoth Dobhair’s 3-5 and force extra-time.
The countenance of the Gaoth Dobhair team before the additional period was of one who had lost and not drawn and in extra-time the side managed by Tom Beag Gillespie lost their way. They were outscored in extra-time by six points to no score with Ryan Greene popping over four frees and Adam Ryan and McCarron completing what, in the end, looked like a comfortable win. In reality, it was anything but.
Gaoth Dobhair lost corner-back James Ó’Baoill and target man Gavin McBride to red cards in that additional period and referee Connie Doherty left the field to the occasional heckle from the bilingual tongues - for not having made Jack Scally join them following two fouls in succession that weren’t overly malicious but one brought a yellow and the other just a tick. But regardless of a refereeing decision or two it was Dungloe’s dominance, having got back on terms, that sealed a final berth against St Eunan’s.
For so much of the evening, though, the parallel outcome seemed probable. Gaoth Dobhair were so much more economical, a fact crystallised when it’s considered their total count of wides was just five to Dungloe’s 20. That wastefulness in front of goal was already being etched as the reason for Dungloe’s shortcoming, only before their resilience shone through.
Gaoth Dobhair went in at half-time 1-3 to 0-5 up with their goal, on 11 minutes, courtesy of Daire Ó’Baoill’s alertness after a shot from Cian Mulligan was initially blocked down. Dungloe were reliant, certainly to begin with, on the impressive Adam Neely, who scored four points from play before succumbing to injury. Interestingly, at that juncture they had already missed the target eight times to Gaoth Dobhair’s two, with some of the wides from good positions – something that generally pricks confidence like a pin does a balloon.
Fourteen seconds into the second half, when McBride had won possession at the restart, Gaoth Dobhair played in Mulligan to fire home a second goal. And on 48 minutes their place in the final and another crack at St Eunan’s, who had defeated them 4-6 to 1-12 in the Northern Regional Board final on Wednesday, seemed to be in the architect’s drawings when Mulligan’s floated ball from 40 yards deceived Dungloe goalkeeper Danny Rogders. The mistake by Rodgers was unfortunate as moments beforehand he had kept the candle lit with a save from Aodhan Ferry. But the concession left the score 3-5 to 0-6 and at that stage it would have been forgivable for those from Dungloe to turn their cars for home. But it was Gaoth Dobhair’s last score.
However, two minutes later and following a muted Luke Neely point, a Ryan Rodgers ball into Gaoth Dobhair territory caused some consternation and Darren Curran goaled to breathe some life into Dungloe’s optimistic comeback. Stephen Conaghan’s free, the first of the night on 58 minutes, brought Dungloe’s deficit down to just three points.
But the game appeared up when Gaoth Dobhair contrived a 45 with just only 20 seconds of the two minutes announced stoppage time to be played, only for McBride to be penalised for time-wasting and a hop ball was awarded. Following a few handbags, Dungloe broke and McCarron had options inside but bravely took on the chance to shoot from his self-made angle and smashed home the equalising goal. His side never looked back from there, while Gaoth Dobhair can now only look back on what might have been.
Dungloe: Danny Rodgers; Matthew Ward, Eoin Scally, Ryan Rodgers; Brian O’Donnell, Jack Scally, Darragh McGee; Darren Curran (1-1, 1f), Luke Neely (0-1); Stephen Conaghan (0-2, 1f), Barry Curran, Adam Neely (0-4); Ryan Greene (0-4, 4f), David Sweeney, David McCarron (1-1, 1f). Subs: Adam Ryan (0-1) for Sweeney (48), Cian Shovlin for Neely (full-time).
Gaoth Dobhair: Charles Doherty; Gary McFadden, Patrick Cribben, James Ó’Baoill; Shaun Donegan, Ciaran Gillespie, Adam Ferry; Cian Mulligan (2-0), Tiarnán O’Dea (0-1); Aodhan Ferry, Conor Sweeney (0-1), Michéal Gallagher; Daire Ó’Baoill (1-0), Gavin McBride (0-2), Niall Friel (0-1). Subs: Joe Gallagher for Sweeney (48), Ryan Griffin for Gallagher (59)
Referee: Connie Doherty (Naomh Conaill).