Donegal produced their best hurling of their Division 3A campaign and came within a whisker of pulling of a sensational victory over promotion chasing Fingal in Swords on Sunday afternoon.
Second half goals from Danny Cullen (just back from Australia) and Ronan McDermott, both introduced in the second period, turned this tie on its head as the Tir Chonaill men came from 1-10 to 1-8 down at half-time to twice lead by four points.
Cullen, with his first touch, found the net in the opening seconds of the second period to fire Donegal into the lead and teenager McDermott did likewise when drilling hoe goal number three seconds after being introduced on 44 minutes.
The goal opened up a 3-10 to 1-12 Donegal lead with the game slipping away from the North Dubliners and so too were their promotion prospects.
And while Fingal responded with four points to reduce the margin to one, they were on the back foot once again when McDermott pounced for his second and Donegal’s fourth three pointer eight minutes from the end.
But in one last push Fingal posted five unanswered points two from J.M. Sheridan and three from Andrew Richardson to snatch a dramatic win and a place in the Division 3A final and a crack at promotion to Division 2A.
Donegal had recovered from a slow start after going 0-4 to 0-1 down with points from Niall Campell and Joe Boyle, before being rocked by a Graham Dillon goal that propelled Fingal into a six point lead by the end of the first quarter.
However, Ray Durack’s men, most of whom played club league games the previous evening, refused to buckle and slowly they found their bearings and eased their way back into the game with a well taken goal by Kevin Campbell which sparked the Donegal revival.
The Setanta man outfielded James McAnaw (formerly of Four Masters) before turning and driving past Conor Harford in the Fingal goals.
The goal reduced the margin to two and gave Donegal hope for the second half. Unfortunately Campbell picked up an injury before the break and did not reappear for the second period. But his deputy and club colleague Cullen proved more than a capable replacement.
While the game ended in defeat and disappointment the performance will greatly boost bruised morale for next Sunday’s relegation play-off with Sligo.
Donegal: Paul Burns; Benny Harrigan, Marty McGrath, Shane Gallen; Justin Browne, Justin McGee, C.McDermott; Joe Boyle (0-2), Ardal McDermott; Niall Campbell (0-8,4f), Paul Sheridan, Enda McDermott (0-1); Lee Henderson, Kevin Campbell (1-0), Michael McGee. Subs: Padraig Doherty for M. McGrath (25); Dany Cullen for K. Campbell (h/t, inj),; Ronan McDermott (2-1) for M. McGee.
Fingal: C. Halford; A. Cullen, J. McAnaw, N. Feeney (1-0); P. Quinn, M. Cussen, P. Balfe; D. Byrne, E. Power (0-1); A. Creane; R. McGarry, J. O’Callaghan; C. Donegan (0-1). J.M. Sheridan (0-12,5f,1,65), G. Dillon (1-2). Subs: A. O’Leary for O. Callaghan (41); C. Corcoran for R.McGarry (41); D. Keogh (0-1) for D. Byrne (51); A. Richardson (0-1) for C. Donegan (50), A. Morris for P. Balfe.
Referee: P. O’Dwyer (Carlow).