Killybegs picked up another two precious league points with this two-point victory over Sean MacCumhaill Park in Ballybofey on Friday night.
Ace marksman Conal Molloy once again was the winners’ top scorer with six points, five of them from frees, while Shane Boyle hit three points from his new surroundings of wing-back.
For three quarters of the tie this was a very polished performance from Molloy, Boyle and company, who led by five points at the end of the third quarter.
But they survived a late Steven O’Reilly inspired Sean MacCumhaill’s revival and Joe McBrearty and his men were sweating in the closing minutes as the locals reduced the margin to two.
A Brian Lafferty penalty within seconds of the restart rekindled MacCumhaill’s prospects. But if O’Reilly had gone down in the square when he was tugged back in the closing seconds there would have been red faces all round in the Killybegs dressing room afterwards.
Killybegs were clearly the better side in the opening half against a MacCumhaill’s side that were painfully missing county man Marty O’Reilly,
who was just one of a number of first choice players that Pat McNabb was forced to line out without - Brendan McLaughlin, Darren O’Leary, Shaun McGowan – playing with Finn Harps across the road in Finn Park – and Andy Bonner were also missing from the MacCumhaill’s line-up.
Joe McBrearty and Killybegs had their absentees too with Jason Noctor, Shane Molloy, Ronan Boyle, and Christopher Murrin non-starters and Daniel Breslin on the bench.
Killybegs led 0-8 to 0-3 at half-time and the only mystery was that they were not further in front as they carved open the MacCumhaill’s defence at will and as well as hitting eight points they also clocked up five wides.
With the Smyth brothers Matthew and Val on top at midfield, Shane Boyle from play and Conal Molloy from frees inflicted the most pain on MacCumhaill’s. Between them accounted for seven of the points into River End with the lively Brendan Maguire also lightening up the scoreboard.
The locals who were not at the pace of their opponents and Killybegs looked from a different league in the opening half-hour and they relied on sporadic raids with David White raising two of their white flags with Paddy Hannigan striding forward to score the other.
Lafferty’s penalty after O’Reilly was pulled down within a minute of the restart cut the margin to two 0-8 to 1-6. But three points in six minutes from Molloy (six) and Maguire restored Killybegs’ five-point cushion. And Killybegs were cruising again. Joe Dunnion and Paul McGinley exchanged points as Killybegs continued to dictate.
But with Steven O’Reilly and Paddy Hannigan swapping berths and Killybegs becoming a little extravagant and wayward in their shooting MacCumhaills mounted a final quarter revival.
And with points from Lafferty, Gavin Gallagher, and David White, to a pointed Molloy free the gap was down to three and Killybegs for the first time on the back foot.
With the clock ticking Michael Mullin had to be alert on of his line in lightening fashion to deny Paddy Hannigan before Stephen Mulligan on the stroke of time made it a two point game.
And while O’Reilly had a late chance for glory before being bottled up by a swarming Killybegs defence, in the end MacCumhaills’s ran out of road and ran out of time.
Killybegs: Michael Mullin; Ciaran Conaghan, Kevin Fallon, David Conwell; Paul McGinley (0-1), Barry Cannon, Shane Boyle (0-3); Matthew Smyth, Val Smyth; Mark Boyle, Brendan Boyle (0-1), Hugh McFadden; Charles Tully, Conal Molloy (0-6,5), Brendan Maguire(0-2). Subs: Daniel Breslin for H. McFadden (40); Kevin Martin for M. Boyle (46); Anthony O’Hara for B. Maguire(30).
Sean MacCumhaills: Rory Patton; Eoghan Wright, John Lynch, Andrew McCloskey; Shane Duffy, Gary Dunnion, Joe Dunnion(0-1); Paddy Hannigan (0-1), Pat McNulty; Gavin Gallagher (0-1), David White (0-3,2f), Chris McDaid; Brian Lafferty (1-1), Steven O’Reilly, Chris Gallen. Subs: Stephen Mulligan (0-1) for C. Gallen (49); Ryan Duffy for C. McDaid (56).
Referee: Mickey Mulhern (St. Eunan’s).
Man of the match
Shane Boyle kicked three points – all from play – from left-half-back and while he was not found wanting when it came to defensive duties he attacked at great pace and gave his team great option out wide any time he went forward.
He takes the accolade from his team mates Conal Molloy, Matthew Smyth and Paul McGinley and MacCumhaills, Steven O’Reilly, Joe Dunnion and Brian Lafferty.
While Killybegs had the back broken in the first half their three points in six minutes after Brian Lafferty had scored MacCumhaill’s penalty one minute into the second half turned the game back in their favour.
Mickey Mulhern was up with the play, got most of the calls spot in including MacCumhaill’s penalty. He was also spot on when not blowing when Steven O’Reilly was tugged in the Killybegs rectangle in the closing minutes and in fairness to MacCumhaill’s they agreed. They did not protest too much.