XArdara put their League form to one side in impressive fashion to grind out an important Championship win against Glenswilly in Pearse Memorial Park on Sunday.
Ardara . . . . . . . . . 0-08
Glenswilly . . . . . . 0-06
The big talking point afterwards was Paddy McGrath not appearing after the break after he shipped a heavy knock just before the short whistle. Michael Murphy, who was also in the wars, was also moving awkwardly after a hard collision, also in the first period.
Rory Gallagher will no doubt be anxious to find out the condition of both men with Donegal's Ulster SFC opener looming on June 12.
It was Ardara's directness and ability to bring that physicality through the middle channel in the first period, where they had most of their success in what was otherwise a scrappy opening act.
On two minutes, Brendan McNelis' powerful run was illegally halted and that allowed the big midfielder to kick the opening score of the game from in-and-around the 30m mark.
Almost from the off, there was plenty of bite in this one with a number of individual scores from a bruising All-County League encounter earlier in the season keen to be settled.
CJ Molloy was next to test the Glen centre and his barge again won a placed ball in an attractive position. Gareth Concarr elected to work the ball across to the better placed Jimmy O'Connell but his slice just tailed wide at the vital moment.
Andrew Mullin really had his hands full here. He dished out four bookings to the visitors in the first-half as James Pat McDaid, Caoimhin Marely, Keelan McFadden and Leon Kelly all went into the notebook.
Ardara certainly weren't choirboys either and they lost Nicolas Breslin to a black card which meant an earlier than expected appearance for teenager Jack Brennan. Seamus Gallagher's side went two to the good on 12 minutes thanks to another dead ball through Concarr, again won by McNelis' determination to make yards in the final third.
In between, the sight of Michael Murphy receiving lengthy treatment after shipping a heavy knock was a worry - instantly for Glenswilly - but also for all Tir Chonaill supporters along the wire.
Despite continuing to move gingerly, he remained on the field of play for the entire remainder.
Michael Canning's men were finally off the mark on 21 minutes thanks to a Gary McFadden free. The visiting boss also sprung former county man Ciaran Bonner into the mix in a bid to wrestle back some control around the middle.
Right before the end there was real cause for concern for Ardara, and Donegal again, when Paddy McGrath was crudely upended near the touchline. He eventually picked himself up but failed to appear for the second-half.
Half-time: Ardara 0-3:0-2 Glenswilly.
Ardara took a real grip on matters following the restart with four overs on the bounce moving them out to a commanding 0-7 to 0-2 lead. With O'Connell wining a free for McNelis to split the posts, Ardara went two up.
A brilliant cut from the extreme right hand side by full-back Declan Gavigan then had those in green and gold along the perimeter buzzing. Things continued to improve for an energetic Ardara when substitute Stefan Boyle, just seconds into the mix, made it a five-point game approaching the final quarter.
At that stage, it looked like Ardara were almost out the gate. Glenswilly had other ideas. They hammered over three points of their own, on the trot, to reel the home side back to within two points with five minutes of normal time still to play.
Both Kelly brothers, Leon and Caolan, and James Pat McDaid were the men doing the damage there. Credit to Ardara though, they refused to fold and a steadying over from Concarr, after Jack Brennan cutely coaxed the free out of his marker, allowed Ardara to end what was, by that stage, a 17-minute scoring baron spell.
Before the end, where six minutes of added time was played, Glenswilly had penalty appeals waved away inside a crowded area. From a drop kicked free, Murphy blazed high and topside of the bar. With that, it was all over.
With Bundoran well beaten in Rosses Park in the other contest in this section, It's Ardara and Dungloe that sit top of the pile in Group A.
Ardara: Cathal Gallagher; Nicholas Breslin, Declan Gavigan, Kevin Breslin; Johnny Herron, Paddy McGrath, Kennety Doherty; Conor Classon, Jimmy O'Connell; Brendan McNelis (0-3,2f), Ryan Malley, CJ Molloy; Nicholas Maguire, Gareth Concarr (0-4,2f) Kevin Herron. Subs: Jack Brennan for N Breslin (BC, 15mins), Lorcan O'Donnell for P McGrath (ht), Stefan Boyle for J O'Connell (41), Joe Melly for L O'Donnell (58).
Glenswilly: James Gallagher; Cormac Callaghan, Eamon Ward, Aidan McDevitt; Oisin Crawford, James Pat McDaid (0-1), Cathal Gallagher; Leon Kelly (0-1), Gary McFadden (0-2,2f); Caoimhín Marley. Keelan McFadden, Joe Gibbons; Christopher McMonagle, Michael Murphy (0-1), Darren McGinley Subs: Ciaran Bonner for C McMonagle (20), Caolan Kelly (0-1) for A McDevitt (ht), Christopher McMonagle for K McFadden (41), Ryan Diver for C Gallagher (43), Ethan McGinley for D McGinley (59)
Referee: Andrew Mullin (Killybegs).
Dungloe turned on the charm in the second half to draw first blood in Group A with a much easier than anticipated victory over Bundoran in Rosses Park on Saturday evening.
Dungloe . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2-11
Bundoran . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 0-7
Ten points separated the sides at the finish with the locals netting both of their goals in the second half. Conor Greene, a half-time replacement for Martin Redmond, scored the first and wing forward Hugh Moy netted the second close to the end.
County U-21 Adam Neely, who along with Ryan Greene, ran the Bundoran last line of defence ragged for the 60 plus minutes, was the winners' top scorer with five points, four of them from placed balls. Greene posted three frees.
Neilly, Greene, Noel McBride - just back from a lengthy layoff through injury - the veteran midfield pairing of Raymond Sweeney, Shaun Sharkey along with Gavin Ward, Doalty Boyle, Darren Curran, Matthew Ward and Jack Scally were the standout players for Dungloe.
Dungloe led by three points at half-time, 0-7 to 0-4, after playing with the aid of the strong wind that blew up Rosses Park.
Man of the match Neely posted four of his five point tally in the opening half; Greene, McBride and Sharkey raised the other three with McBride’s 18th minute long range strike from outside the '45' one of the scores of the game.
Tommy Hourihane (3) and Niall Dunne contributed Bundoran’s first half points and the men from the Realt na Mara would have gone in happy at the interval to be only three down having played into the strong wind.
Former Leitrim player Paul Brennan was their main driving force in the opening half hour as he ran at Dungloe at every opportunity.
Greene converted two early close in frees on the resumption and Neely raised another white flag for a 0-10 to 0-4 lead by the 41 st minute.
And Dungloe were on their way shortly after when Greene fly kicked to the net after a sweeping Dungloe move from a Danny Rodgers kickout for a 1-10 to 0-4 advantage.
Jamie Brennan kicked Bundoran’s first of the second half on 52 minutes and also had appeals for a late penalty turned down.
Rodgers stroked over ala Steven Cluxton and Darragh Hoey and Hourihane hit late consolations for Bundoran, before Hugh Moy added the final blow with Dungloe’s second three pointer deep in time added on.
Dungloe: Danny Rodgers (0-1,1f); Jack Scally, Gavin Ward, Doalty Boyle; Brian O’Donnell, Matthew Ward, Darren Curran; Raymond Sweeney, Shaun Sharkey (0-1); Hugh Moy (1-0), Martin Redmond, Gerard Walsh; Adam Neely (0-5,4f), Noel McBride (0-1), Ryan Greene (0-3,3f). Subs: Mark Sweeney for B O’Donnell 30, (inj and black); Conor Greene for M Redmond and Barry Curran for J Scally, both h/t; Mark Curran for D Curran 48, inj.
Bundoran: Conor Carty; Matthew Ward, Diarmuid McCaughey, Johnny Boyle; Shane McGowan, Paul Brennan, Barry McGowan; Ciaran McCaughey, Niall Dunne (0-1); Alan Russell, Tommy Hourihane (0-4,3f), Peter McGonagle; Darragh Hoey (0-1), Jamie Brennan (0-1), Christy Keaney. Subs: Pauric Rooney for N Dunne 42; Timmy Goverov for A Russell 49; Niall McGonagle for B McGowan 57.
Referee: Enda McFeely (Convoy).