Buncrana led by 2-3 to 0-1 after ten minutes and it looked curtains for Aodh Raudh, but they fought back and it was Buncrana who needed a late free from Odhran Doherty to get a share of the spoils in Fr. Tierney Park on Saturday evening.
Aodh Ruadh 2-10
After the opening parries and thrusts it was Michael ‘Sticky’ Ward who first raised a flag, sniping over from close range in the second minute. After five minutes disaster struck for the homesters as Buncrana marauded into the Aodh Ruadh area and after a number of failed clearances David Bell was left with the simplest of tap ins past Peter Boyle for a sucker-punch goal. Just two minutes later and Bell was back in poaching for a goal. He beat his marker handy before hitting a rasper which came back out off the underside of the crossbar. Odhran O’Doherty was able to get on the rebound and point from out on the right. A minute later and William McLoughlin hit another point as the homesters struggled to get their hand on leather. It was to get worse before it got better for the homesters though. Buncrana romped through a minute later and once again Bell was on the end of the move. He wasn’t to be denied this time, slamming home his second goal to take the visitors into a commanding 0-1 to 2-3 lead.
The Ernesiders badly needed a lifeline and they got it 13 minutes in when a 45 dropped short and Caolan McGonigle fumbled it. David McGurrin showed rapid reactions to put a fist to it and drive it into the back of the net.
Darach O’Connor had a Buncrana point but points from David McGurrin and Michael Ward left it 1-3 to 2-4 with 19 minutes gone.
Darach O’Connor showed great coolness to shoot over for Buncrana in the 20th minute and Odhran Doherty added another. The Ballyshannon revival continued in the second half as Seamus Kane pointed and then Eamon McGrath and Michael Ward combined to set up Diarmaid McInerney for the second half and by the 36th minute a point from Seamus Kane had closed the gap to a point.
Doherty, however, opened the gap to three before substitute Donagh McIntyre hit an inspirational score on the 44th minute, curling it in from the right to put two points between the sides once more. Doherty was on fire though, and he hit a fine answering point to keep Ballyshannon at arm’s length.
As the game moved into the final quarter Ronan McGurrin did well to engineer a chance but his goal effort flashed over the bar. What could well have been the leveller cut the deficit to two points. Shortly after that score McGurrin was the beneficiary of typically industrious work from the freshly introduced Brian Roper, hoisting over a magnificent distance point to cut Buncrana’s lead to the minimum.
The closing stages were frantic, frenetic stuff. Buncrana fluffed a number of chances shooting nervy wides when a more clinical approach might have yeilded a score. Nevertheless, it was Aodh Ruadh who were having the better of the exchanges and the sizeable home support responded by becoming increasingly vocal. The volume reached a crescendo just moments before the clock ticked into added time when Donagh McIntyre powered over a mighty shot which pulled inside the post at the last moment to level the game at 2-9 apiece.
Incredibly the homesters won possession from the kick out and the ball found it’s way out to Kerry Ryan on the right wing. Ryan proceeded put his laces through an freakish effort which dropped improbably just over the bar to put Aodh Ruadh into the lead for the first time since the opening moments of the game to raucous cheers from the home support. Buncrana were thunderstruck but they kept the composure to get on the ball and make a break up the pitch with the home crowd baying for Jimmy White’s final whistle. They were finding gaps in the Aodh Ruadh defence and it took a take-one-for-the-team tackle just outside the 45 halt their advance on the Ballyshannon posts. The Inishowen men were guilty of a few poor misses in the final quarter but Odhran Doherty was coolness personified. He stepped up and drove his placed ball emphatically over the black spot to level the game just seconds before the long whistle.
Best for Aodh Ruadh were Johnny Gallagher who did well to shore up defence after Buncrana’s early barrage, Ronan McGurrin who got through a lot of work, took a right bit of punishment and hit two big points. Seamus Kane’s work in the third quarter was instrumental to getting Aodh Ruadh back into the game, while the front three all gave good accounts of themselves against a whithering Buncrana defence. All Ballyshannon’s subs contributed well.
For Buncrana David Bell was outstanding in the opening stages, hitting two goals and unlucky not to get a third, but it was Odhran Doherty who was probably Buncrana’s most effective attacker. He registered six points, five from play and his one free was the kind of pressure kick that many a fainter heart would have baulked at. Darach O’Connor also showed himself to be a tasty attacker, with his three points hit under significant pressure.
Aodh Ruadh: Peter Boyle; Ryan Patton, Johnny Gallagher, Michael Ward; Anthony Boyle, Conor Patton, Eamonn McGrath; Ronan McGurrin (0-2), Kerry Ryan (0-1); David Dolan, Seamus Kane (0-2), Ronan Drummond; Diarmaid McInerney (1-0), Michael ‘Sticky’ Ward (0-2), David McGurrin (1-1). Subs: Niall McCready for Ryan Patton 13 ; Donagh McIntyre (0-2) for Ronan Drummon: 41; Colm Kelly for Diarmaid McInerney 50; Brian Roper for David McGurrin 51; Kieran Keown for Seamus Kane 54.
Buncrana: Caolan McGonigle; Simon McGrory, Bruce Waldron, Simon Cuffe; Kevin O’Loughlin, Oisín Doherty, Adrian McColgan; Peter McLoughlin, Ryan Bradley; William McLoughlin (0-1), Odhran Doherty (0-6, 1f), Pat McMeyler; David Bell (2-0), Paul McGonigle, Darach O’Connor (0-3). Subs: Ronan Doherty for Simon Cuffe: 51; Kelvin Jones for Pat McMeyler: 55.
Referee: Jimmy White (Killybegs)
N Padraig, Lifford 0-10
St. Naul’s 1-13
St. Naul’s were always in control in this first leg game in Lifford, leading 1-7 to 0-4 at the break, the goal coming from Barry Griffin.
The Parish of Inver side, one of the favourites for the championship, were helped in their cause when Naomh Padraig were reduced to 14 early in the second half, substitute Johnny Mahon being shown red shortly after being introduced.
For Naomh Padraig, though, this was a gutsy performance for their first ever appearance in the Intermediate Championship.
St. Naul’s, however, will be strong favourites to advance, having the second leg at home in Mountcharles, probably next weekend.
Naomh Padraig, Lifford: F McBrearty; M Carlin, M Ferry, M McHugh; D Gethins, S Breslin, S Carlin; S Breslin, D Gillespie; P Lynch, B Breslin, L Crossan; D Friel, P Given, G McGirr. Sub., J Mahon.
St. Naul’s: L McBrearty; A Kennedy, P Coyle, E Kane; B Griffin (1-2), S Johnston, J Rose (0-1); F McGinley, S Griffin (0-3); E Gallagher (0-1), C Lowther (0-3), J Flynn; B McCabe, P McGroarty (0-1), S Conneely. Subs., C McDevitt, B Rose.