St Eunan’s 2-5
Report: Tom Comack
Photographs: Conor McGonagle
Two second half Michal Bradley goals and a master class in score taking from Andy Connor saw Downings dethrone champions St Eunan’s in the Junior B football championship final at Sean MacCumhaill Park on Sunday.
In an entertaining and keenly contested encounter the new champions put a poor start behind them in Ballybofey, to capture a first Junior B title. St. Eunan’s did all the early running and played their best football in the opening quarter. But once Downings shrugged off their early lethargy and got to grips with Dwyer Rafferty and Paddy Doherty at midfield they game turned very much in their favour.
The radar-like accuracy of Andy Connor from both play and frees also played a huge part in their revival and ultimate victory. Connor was simply majestic in the art of scoring and is one of the main reason they are celebrating first adult championship since their Intermediate success of 1993.
After falling 0-4 to 0-0 behind at the end of the first quarter thanks to white flags from Dwyer Rafferty, Paul McGovern and Conal McGinley, Downings stormed back into the contest. Connor kick started the recovery with a 35 metre from a tight angle on 23 minutes and he followed this with a brilliant point from play four minutes later.
The revival was well and truly under way when Connor converted the first of his two 45 metres from frees. A truly brilliant strike in the breeze that had metres to spare as it sailed over Andrew McGovern’s crossbar.
It got even better for the men in green and gold when Joe Gallagher raced through from midfield to tie up the game with literally the last kick of the first half to leave it 0-4 each at half-time. However all their good work was undone within a minute of the restart and St. Eunan’s were on the front foot again when Conal McGinley found the net.
McGinley side-stepped a number of defenders before deceiving Brendan Logue with a chip into the top corner of the net and all of sudden they were three up again leading 1-4 to 0-4. But with Connor once more stepping up to the mark and Pete McBride now at midfield Downings were back on level terms by the 41 minute mark. Connor with a pointed free and one from play and another white flag from Michael McBride tied up the game at 0-7 each.
With game on a knife-edge Tom Logue was denied by Andrew McGovern while Paul struck at the other end to edge St. Eunan’s back in front as the game entered the final quarter. But with the momentum with them, Downings were not going to be denied and it was all square again on 47 minutes thanks to Pete McBride. This was followed by another Connor 45 metre special and all of sudden Downings were in front 0-9 to 0-8 for the very first time with 12 minutes remaining.
And when Michael Bradley toe poked to the net on 53 minutes after Andrew McGovern lost possession as he was about to clear the Junior B crown was on its way to Downings. With St. Eunan’s race run and the chance to complete the back to back all but gone Bradley added the dagger two minutes into injury time when netted goal number two. This time winning possession he stole inside his marker and from close range gave Andrew McGovern no chance.
Paul McGovern scored a late goal for the outgoing champions but it was too late and Downings were not to be denied.
Overall once they found their feet this was an accomplished performance who apart from man of the match Connor also had big performances from Rory Cannon, David Baxter, Ian McElhinney, Brian Boyce in defence Tom Logue and Joe Gallagher in midfield and James McBride, Michael McBride, Oisin Boyce and Maxi Curran.
Gerard Devine, Dean ‘Dixie’ Doherty, Paul Dillion, Dwyer Rafferty, Ciaran McMonagle and top scorer Paul McGovern all had their moments for St. Eunan’s.
Downings: Brendan Logue; Declan McBride, Rory Cannon, Marty McLaughlin; Ian McElhinney, David Baxter, Brian Boyce; Joe Gallagher (0-1), Tom Logue; Michal Bradley (2-0), James McBride, Michael McBride (0-1); Maxi Curran, Oisin Boyce, Andy Connors (0-6,4F).
Subs: Pete McBride for M. Curran inj.; Kevin Gallagher for D. McBride; Gerard McGee for M.McBride; Owen Byrne for D. Baxter; Barry McBride for P. McBride inj.
St. Eunan’s: Andrew McGovern; Benny Callaghan, Gerard Devine, Benny Gyvert; Paul Dillon, Barry Tinney, Dean ‘Dixie’ Doherty; Dwyer Rafferty (0-1), Paddy Doherty; Marcus Harley, Ciaran McMonagle, Christopher Gillen; Conal McGinley (1-1), Paul McGovern (1-3, 1f), Sean Cafferkey.
Subs: Colm McIntyre for B. Tinney inj.; Packie Kennedy for C. Gillen; Gareth Boyle for M.Harley; Aidan Callaghan for D. Gyverts; Brian McGeehin for S. Cafferkey.
Referee: Tony Gallagher (Red Hughs).
Man of the match
Downings corner forward Andy Connor who played in a more central position in front of the St. Eunan’s point kicked six points and proved a great target man once his side got going.
Andy showed a great eye for a score kicking his teams three opening points to bring his side back into the contest and overall his kicking was top drawer with two of his pointed frees from 45 metres fantastic scores. They would not have been out of place in a senior championship final.
While this game had its fair of twists and turns Michael Bradley’s goal for Downings eleven minutes from the end set the champions on their way. A high ball into the goalmouth was taken easily by St.Eunan’s keeper Andrew McGovern. However as he was about to clear Andrew lost possession and Michal Bradley was on hand to first time the ball to the net.
This was a sporting contest with both sets of player making it an easy outing for Red Hugh’s official Tony Gallagher. The official flashed a number of yellow cards and was always in control and more importantly let the game flow. If there was one down side to his game, it was that he could have been a little clearer with his hand signals for frees. But overall he had a good game.