Ardara, thanks to a good second half display, ran out winners of a contest that was close for most of the game in Pearse Park, Ardara last night.
Four Masters 1-7
The game turned on a 30 second period with nine minutes left. At that stage Ardara were leading by a point - 0-9 to 1-5 - but a goal and a point inside 30 seconds from Stephen ‘Red’ McHugh decided this contest.
McHugh took a good ball in from Kevin Herron, rounded Barry Farragher and blasted past Paul Durcan. From the kick-out, the ball was turned over and sent back in to McHugh, who turned and found the range from an angle.
Those two scores effectively sealed a game that was, up to then, very close and nobody would have bet on the outcome.
Ardara were a point to the good at half-tiime but really should have been well clear. They had five wides and hit the upright on two occasions, one of them from a 20m free.
Indeed, it seemed that the goals furthest from the dressing rooms were the ones that were the most difficult to score. During the second half, Four Masters also hit the woodwork twice and posted three wides.
The opening half lacked intensity and Ardara can thank Paddy McGrath for keeping them in the contest. He was involved in the first four Ardara points and generally kept the home side on the front foot.
Conor McDaid had the opening score for Four Masters before McGrath set up Paddy Gallagher for the equaliser. The game turned in Four Masters’ favour when Stephen Keeney finished a goal on six minutes. It came after a Conor McDaid effort for a point came back off the angle of crossbar and post and fell to Keeney, who made no mistake.
Ardara hit back with McGrath leading the challenge and Kevin Herron, Brendan McNelis (free) and Brendan Boyle had them level by the 12 minute.
After Martin Shovlin hit the post with a 20m free, Conor McDaid edged Four Masters back in front, but late points from Kieran Breslin and Kenneth Doherty had Ardara ahead by the minimum at the break, 0-6 to 1-3.
Four Masters hit the ground running in the second half with Conor McDaid (free) and Michael Doherty (45) putting them back in front. The Donegal Town men had a greater intensity and it took Ardara a while to get to the pitch, but Kieran Breslin replied with a good point and Martin Shovlin put them back in front, although he could have found Brendan Boyle when through on goal, but elected to take a point.
Josh Lacey, just on the field, left just a point between them with his first kick on 48 minutes.
Then came the turning point with Stephen McHugh’s goal and point. Martin Shovlin added a further point after Brendan Boyle won a free on 54 minutes to open the gap to six.
Two late points from Conor ‘Toasty’ McMonagle only served to put a better look on the scoreboard.
Apart from Paddy McGrath, Matthew Maher, Brendan McNelis, Kenneth Doherty, Kieran Breslin and Brendan Boyle were outstanding for the winners; for Four Masters Conor Rooney, Luke Keaney, Conor McMonagle and Karl Lacey were best.
Ardara: Declan Gallagher; Shaun McLaughlin, Declan Gavigan, Kevin Breslin; Paddy McGrath, Matthew Maher (0-1), Paddy Gallagher (0-1); Brendan McNelis (0-1,f), Kenneth Doherty (0-1); Kevin Byrne, Brendan Boyle (0-1), Kieran Breslin (0-1); Kevin Herron (0-1), Stephen McHugh (1-2), Martin Shovlin (0-2,f). Subs., Conor Classon for K Herron 45; Stephen Boyle for McLaughlin 47; Peter McNelis for B Boyle 58; Nicholas Breslin for P Gallagher 61.
Four Masters: Paul Durcan; Jamie McCrea, Barry Farragher, Daniel McGarrigle; Barry Dunnion, Conor Rooney, Karl Lacey; Barry Monaghan, Luke Keaney; Raymie McGroary, Shane Carr, Conor McMonagle (0-2,1f); Conor McDaid (0-3,2f), Stephen Keeney (1-0), Michael Doherty (0-1,45). Subs., Josh Lacey (0-1) for McDaid 47; Darren Walsh for J McCrea 53; Peadar Espey for McGroary 54;
Referee: Shaun McLaughlin (Malin)