A five-star display from Michael Murphy lit up MacCumhaill Park, Ballybofey, on Sunday as Glenswilly collected the Dr. Maguire Cup for the first time in their short history.
St. Michael’s 0-9
Murphy hit 1-7 of their total, the goal coming twelve minutes into the second half, a classic finish from the big full-forward, who fielded and turned in one movement and fired to the net. It was similar to another Murphy goal scored against Naomh Conaill in the semi-final last year.
Christy Toye dragged St. Michael’s back on terms but three further Murphy points in the final ten minutes ensured the Dr. Maguire Cup was heading for the Glen for the first time.
The outpouring of emotion at the final whistle underlined what it is like to win the senior county title for the first time. Captain, Gary McFadden took possession of the cup long before county chairman, P J McGowan, had time to make the presentation and the players even broke into a rendition of the Hills of Glenswilly.
The second half of the final was worthy of the occasion with St. Michael’s taking a one point lead before Murphy struck for a goal fitting for any occasion.
However, it was never comfortable as the men from the parish of Doe fought back and they also had goal chances with a pass from Colm McFadden just a little heavy and Glenswilly ‘keeper Philip O’Donnell was quickly off his line to save the day.
The first time finalists, St. Michael’s showed all the nerves early on as Glenswilly were quick from the traps. Michael Murphy, back in his customary role of full-forward, won and pointed free inside three minutes.
The big full-forward repeated the trick on seven minutes with St. Michael’s having their first shot on 11 minutes, and finally made the breakthrough through a patient build-up finished by Christy Toye.
A brace of points inside a minute from James Pat McDaid and a magnificent effort from play from Murphy pushed Glenswilly three clear on 18 minutes.
But once St. Michael’s shrugged off their early nerves, they were much the better side in the final 12 minutes. Ciaran Gallagher had a bad miss but Colm McFadden pointed a free and Daniel McLaughlin followed on 25 minutes.
The best point of the opening half came two minutes from the break as St. Michael’s showed their true potential, breaking from the full-back line before releasing Christy Toye on the burst and he found Colm McFadden with a slide rule pass to leave it all square at the break, 0-4 each.
St. Michael’s were ahead for the only time in the game early in the second half when McFadden and Martin McElhinney cancelled out a Murphy free.
But then came the Murphy goal, fielding a high centre from Joe Gibbons and turning to give Ciaran Gallagher no chance in the St. Michael’s goal. Ironically, it came just minutes after his marker Stephen Black had been replaced with Peter Witherow then taking up the marking duties.
The goal put Glenswilly two clear, but two brilliant Toye points had St. Michael’s back on terms with 11 minutes left on the clock.
Murphy again fielded high and lost two markers before taking a point when a goal was on a minute later but St. Michael’s had a great opportunity at the other end as Colm McFadden sought to release Daniel McLaughlin. His pass was just a little heavy and Philip O’Donnell was off the line quickly to deny them.
The game was put to bed by Murphy when he won and pointed a free on 55 minutes and then converted a ‘45’ with three minutes left.
St. Michael’s tried everything, but a very disciplined Glenswilly defence only conceded a Stephen Coyle free in the final minute.
Indeed, that Glenswilly defence - so miserly throughout the campaign - was one of the reasons for the success. They have adopted many elements of the Jim McGuinness ‘Donegal’ style, and have carried it out with a discipline that was exemplary. They only conceded four frees in the opening half, the first of those with over 20 minutes on the clock and only fouled nine times in the second period.
Picking the man of the match award was one of the easiest tasks ever for the assembled press. Murphy had seemed to struggle for much of the championship, but like good wine, he came good on the big day. His final tally for the club championship of 3-25 is impressive by any standards, just short of 0-6 per match.
But while Michael Murphy will get the plaudits, there were plenty of support acts who had a very good outing. Included in those were Ruairi Crawford, Joe Gibbons, James Pat McDaid, Gary McFadden, Neil Gallagher and Ciaran Bonner. Bonner was replaced at half-time and rested before being brought back in for the final quarter and played a big part.
Glenswilly’s defensive pattern with Colm McFadden being double and sometimes triple teamed worked well with the St. Michael’s man never allowed much freedom.
For St. Michael’s Christy Toye, Colm McFadden and Daniel McLaughlin carried the biggest threat up front, while Michael McGinley, Antoin McFadden and Michael Gallagher were also prominent.
Glenswilly: Philip O’Donnell; Rory McDaid, Eamon Ward, Ruairi Crawford; Joe Gibbons, J P McDaid (0-1), Brian McDaid; Gary McFadden, Neil Gallagher; Kealan McFadden, Ciaran Bonner, Caolan Kelly; Darren McGinley, Michael Murphy (1-7,3f,45), Leon Kelly. Subs.: Brian Farrelly for C Bonner ht; Martin McGinley for D McGinley 42; Ciaran Bonner for C Kelly 46; John McFadden for L Kelly 46; Gerard McGrenra for K McFadden 56
St. Michael’s: Ciaran Gallagher; Brendan Rodden, Stephen Doak, Stephen Black; Peter Witherow, Michael McGinley, Michael Gallagher; Ciaran Gallagher, Martin McElhinney (0-1); Daniel McLaughlin (0-1), Antoin McFadden, Christy Toye (0-3); Colm A McFadden (0-3,1f), Brian McLaughlin, Raymond McLaughlin. Subs.: Andrew Kelly for Black 41; Stephen Coyle (0-1,f)for C Gallagher 56.
Referee: Jimmy White (Killybegs)
Man of the match
An easy choice with Michael Murphy virtually unmarkable. A yellow card picked by his assigned shadow Stephen Black also helped. Black was replaced and Murphy capitalised to the full. Spare a thought for Christy Toye, who kept St. Michael’s in touch with an outstanding display for the losers.
The Murphy goal stands out, but after Christy Toye had brought St. Michael’s level once more, Murphy’s three unanswered points in the final ten minutes were probably equally as important, as well as the alertness of Philip O’Donnell to deny Daniel McLaughlin with just eight minutes left on the clock and one point separating them.
Jimmy White, as usual, was in control and his unfussy approach added to the occasion. Also his ability to show yellow cards, when required, without using up much game time continues to be a feature that other officials could follow.