Donegal marked their return to the Masters fold in 2016 with a hard fought and well-earned victory over newcomers Offaly in the Irish TV Gaelic Masters Shield Final in Clonberne, Co. Galway.
Donegal . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 0-13
Offaly . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 0-10
The win ended a 13-year drought of silverware at this level. The first half showed how both teams were well matched for each other on the day with a stalemate in place at half-time. But in the moving third quarter, Donegal came good to put the game beyond reach.
Offaly were first off the mark pointing from play on seven minutes but Kilcar’s David McShane levelled things three minutes later. Offaly hit the next two points to take a two point lead going on 15 minutes. Donegal were causing problems and when Captain Gerard Mc Grenra nearly connected after a David Mc Shane long ball there was certainly a sense of panic in the Offaly backline but it was dealt with.
John Anthony Mc Mullan was sent to the side line for a yellow card (equivalent to a black card in Masters football) and was replaced by Four Masters Benny Cassidy, who would chip in with two vital points.
St. Eunan’s John Haran hit point number two for the Donegal on 15 minutes and Gerard McGrenra hit the third point two minutes later from a well worked free to restore parity. This was Glenswilly man Mc Grenra’s first of a four point tally and he would go on to lift the man of the match award for his contribution. Offaly rattled over a free and Mc Grenra responded three minutes later again and his club mate Charlie Bonner point number five.
Offaly responded with a brace of points themselves from play but that man again McGrenra knocked over a very fine score to level up the half with John Haran having a chance to put one point between the sides going into half-time but his shot narrowly going wide.
Half-time: Donegal 0-6, Offaly 0-6.
The second half really told a different story to the first and within six minutes of the restart points from Mc Grenra after a strong run down the right wing was rewarded with another superb score and it set the scene for things to come. John Haran found Benny Cassidy and the Four Masters man applied the finish to point over.
Offaly did reply soon after but were stung when Donegal went on to record five more points before they were able to respond. David Mc Shane added his second point and the Four Masters duo of Charlie Gallagher and Benny Cassidy added to the tally, the latter completed the former’s move in a blistering opening 10 minutes that played its part in ensuring the Donegal team went home as champions.
Charlie Gallagher’s efforts for the day were rewarded before his withdrawal when his long range pass into the full forward line bounced awkwardly for the goalkeeper and his own man but luckily it had the height and accuracy to sail over the bar.
John Haran completed his own scoring for the day with a score on 42 minutes and the momentum was clearly on the Donegal men’s side at this stage. Offaly to their credit were not going to let the game get totally out of reach and started to apply intense pressure for the remaining 10 minutes.
An absolute screamer of a point from Benny Cassidy finished out the scoring on the Donegal end for the day and all the points came from play.
Sean Mc Daid of Urris was called into action at the other side when he pulled off an important block on an Offaly attack and Naomh Columba’s Martin Gillespie was busy for the remaining final six minutes. Offaly had a great chance to net a goal and claw the Donegal lead back to 3 points but the effort went over for a point with the Donegal side’s defence applying the necessary pressure and presence.
Offaly did go on to hit over another two points from play entering into injury time but the wonderful second half start that Donegal made had ensured the Shield would be heading up to Donegal.