By Tom Comack
Sean MacCumhaills are Donegal senior hurling champions for only the second time following today’s county final win over Burt, in O’Donnell Park.
Sean MacCumhaills 2-13
The Munster Cup will, for only the second time in its 53 year history, spend the winter in the Finn Valley.
MacCumhaills won their one and only other title back in 2010 when they came out on top against near neighbours Setanta.
And they had lost three finals since that breakthrough win, all to Burt.
The most recent of those defeats was last year. Burt won that game by a point, 2-7 to 0-12.
But the Finsiders were not going to be denied on this occasion. They played the better hurling over the 60 plus minutes. They were quicker to the breaks and quicker to the tackle and in Jamesie Donnelly, Anthony Patton, Gavin Browne and Ciaran Mathewson in defence, Lee Henderson and Paddy Hannigan in midfield, and Gerard Gilmore, Sean Curran and Aaron McAuley in attack, they had the standout men.
They started well and Henderson - who ended the game with a personal tally of 0-10, all from placed balls - converted two early frees and Matthewson landed a massive point from just inside the Burt half from play, to lead 0-3 to 0-1 after six minutes.
Niall Campbell scored the Burt point from a close-in free after five minutes.
With MacCumhaills dominating in the possession stakes Henderson converted two more frees, before David White struck for the first goal.
That was on 20 minutes when dual player White booted to the Burt net from close range when a long range strike from Anthony Patton broke in the Burt square.
That was on 20 minutes and propelled MacCumhaills into a seven point lead, 1-5 to 0-1.
Ronan McDermott and Ciaran Harkin responded with points and Campbell converted two close in frees, to a single MacCumhaills point off the stick of Henderson.
But MacCumhaills still looked comfortable as they led 1-6 to 0-5 with half time looming.
And just when it seemed MacCumhaills had taken a firm grip and had one hand on the title, Conor Harkin struck for a Burt goal on the half hour mark.
Harkin pulled first time when the ball broke after the MacCumhaills defence dithered and failed to clear their lines.
Henderson stroked over his sixth point in injury time for a 1-7 to 1-5 half-time lead for MacCumhaills.
The champions-in-waiting were not going to be denied and they got the second period off to a flying start with an Aaron McCauley goal.
McAuley netted on 33 minutes when Barry McGranaghan batted a long Ciaran Mathewson delivery into his path and from ten metres McAuley gave Paul Burns no chance.
The goal opened up a five point lead once more, 2-7 to 1-5.
Football star Martin O’Reilly replaced Barry McGranaghan for MacCumhaills. But a combination of MacCumhaills sitting back and standing off their men and Burt’s great pride and tradition and never say die attitude meant the Inishowen men were still in the game going into the final quarter.
MacCumhaills led 2-8 to 1-8, with Campbell (2) and blood sub Shane McDaid pointing for Burt.
The champions upped their game again in the closing quarter hour and courtesy of points from Tyrone inter county star Gerard Gilmore, Henderson and McAuley, they opened up a seven point advantage before Ronan McDermott struck for Burt’s second goal with the second last puck of the game, when he pulled first time in a crowded goalmouth.
But it was no more than a consolation score as referee James Connors signalled full time soon after. The official had a fine game and kept a firm grip on a match that had a number of flashpoints.
On a day when they were outplayed for long periods, Niall Campbell, Joe Boyle, Ronan McDermott, Enda McDermott and Christopher McDermott were the Burt men that played well.
SEAN MACCUMHAILLS; Dylan Lafferty; Anthony Patton, Jamesie Donnelly, Bernard McMenamin; Ciaran Mathewson (0-1), Gavin Browne, Conor Griffin; Patrick Hannigan, Lee Henderson (0-10, 8,f, 2 ’65s); Barry McGranaghan, Conor Gallagher, Sean Curran; David White (1-0), Gerard Gilmore (0-1), Aaron McAuley (1-1).
Subs: Martin O’Reilly for B McGranaghan, 34.
BURT: Paul Burns; Martin McGrath, Padraig Doherty, Dara Grant; Benny Harrigan, Joe Boyle, Christopher McDermott; Ciaran Finn (0-2), Stephen Gillespie; Johnny Downey, Ronan McDermott (1-1), Conor Harkin (1-0);Niall Campbell (0-5, 5f), Michael McCann, Enda McDermott.
Subs: Ciaran Dowds for J Downey 22; Jonathan McGrath for C Harkin 36; Shane McDaid (0-1) for D Grant 53.
REFEREE: James Connors (St Eunan’s)