Having won club of the year at the Donegal GAA Banquet on Friday night county champions Glenswilly gave patrons free entry for their opening All-County Football League Division One fixture – but their hospitability went a little too far as Ardara left with the points.
The result, though, wouldn’t be one that will cause serious consternation for Manus McFadden in his first game in charge. Without injured talisman Michael Murphy, Glenswilly were also without regular first-teamers like Joe Gibbons, James Pat McDaid, Rory McDaid, Leon Kelly and Caolan Kelly, while Ciaran Bonner, whose transfer to Tir Chonaill Gaels went through in the week, watched from the sidelines.
That shouldn’t dilute Ardara’s win all the same. Adrian Brennan’s team know how to make their way around the top flight more than most and a win at the home of the top side in the county last season – regardless of their depletion – is not something to be sneered at. The visitors were minus Brendan Boyle and Peter McNelis themselves.
While the hosts took a little time to find the chalk for their cue, kicking three wides to begin with, Ardara were much more effective in front of goal, getting themselves into a 0-5 to 0-2 lead with Noel Gallagher, Gareth Concarr with two, Stephen McHugh and Martin Shovlin on the mark. Glenswilly’s opening two scores came from the foot of Gary McFadden, one from free and the other from play.
However, they finished the half much the stronger with the next couple of points also being scored by McFadden, while goalkeeper Philip O’Donnell chipped in with a crisply struck 45 before a fine Barry Molloy point edged the home team in front. Shovlin, for Ardara, and Glenswilly’s Darren McGinley finished off the scoring to give the locals a one-point lead at the break, 0-7 to 0-6.
The pattern at the conclusion of the first half spilt into the second with Glenswilly still in the ascendency. Gary McFadden and Neil Gallagher, who was excellent in the middle of the field, gave Glenswilly what appeared to be a comfortable three-point lead, 0-10 to 0-7.
Ardara’s front players had been dormant for a while but they soon kicked back into gear as the contest developed an ebb and flow. Declan Gavigan reduced his side’s arrears before what proved to be the telling blow. Twelve minutes into the second half Conor Classon went on a meaningful run, right at the heart of the Glenswilly defence. Laying the ball off to his left, Classon found Concarr in space and the full-forward blasted past O’Donnell from the angle to edge Ardara into a 1-7 to 0-9 lead.
From the resultant kick out, Concarr scored another point as the Ardara sails began to bellow with the momentum on their side. Substitute Brendan McNelis and Ciaran Breslin then scored to give the sizable away support some voice, four in front with 10 minutes to play.
Glenswilly fought back from placed balls. Gary McFadden scored a pair of frees as did substitute Gerard McGrenra. However, sandwiched between those two scores was a point from Brendan McNelis, which proved to be the winner with referee Martin Coll, the former county footballer, blew for time. A useful start for Ardara then, while Glenswilly will be looking to get their numbers inflated before their next league outing, away to Naomh Conaill the weekend after next.
Glenswilly: Philip O’Donnell (0-1, 45); Brian McDaid, Eamonn Ward, Ryan Diver; Ruairi Crawford, Barry Molloy (0-1), Aiden McDevitt; Neil Gallagher (0-1), Gary McFadden (0-7, 5f), Kealan McFadden, Darren McGinley (0-1), Oisin Crawford; Colin Farrell, Brian Farrelly, John McFadden. Subs: Gerard McGrenra (0-2, 2f) for Farrell (47), Peadar Toner for Molloy (49), Kevin Cunningham for O Crawford (56), Molloy for Farrelly (59).
Ardara: Declan Gallagher: Kevin Breslin, Kenneth Doherty, Noel Campbell; Kevin Byrne, Stephen McHugh (0-1), Oisin O’Donnell; Stephen Boyle, Declan Gavigan (0-1); Paddy McGrath, Conor Classon, Ciaran Breslin (0-1); Martin Shovlin (0-2), Gareth Concarr (1-3, 1f), Noel Gallagher (0-1). Subs: Brendan McNelis (0-2) for Gallagher (15), Jimmy O’Connell for Byrne (60).
Referee: Martin Coll (Gaoth Dobhair).