It came down to the watch on Michael Mulhern’s wrist.
FANAD GAELS 1-7
In the 35th minute of the second half, Seamus ‘Nanny’ Friel launched a free and Michael Sweeney got the touch to nestle the ball in the Killybegs net to put his side a point in front - 1-7 to 0-9. But there was still time for Killybegs to win a free in the 37th minute and dissent saw it moved on for Brendan Boyle to give the home side a fully deserved draw.
It all added up to an exciting finish with Fanad thinking they had stolen the win, only for ‘Baker’ Boyle’s superb free from outside the 45m line. It was a real pressure kick as Boyle was told by the referee that it was the last kick of the game.
A draw was the least Killybegs deserved as they dominated the second half and they were always two or three points ahead before the late Fanad goal.
But overall Fanad probably deserved a draw also as they dominated the opening half but were only on level terms at the break, 0-3 each. Fand were missing manager Kevin Gallagher, who was on a pre-planned Mexican holiday and John McConigley and Brendan McAteer took charge.
The game was a carbon copy of the first leg in Portsalon with the exact same scoreline, Michael Sweeney getting the only goal and Brendan Boyle getting the equalising point at the end.
It was a forgettable first half. A former Killybegs player just outside the fence commented late in the opening half: “If a neutral came in late and saw the scoreline, Killybegs 0-2, Fanad Gaels 0-3, they would think this was a great game.”
His comments were tongue in cheek as the fare on view was probably the worst seen at the venue in championship in a long time. Matthew Smyth had Killybegs on the board after 29 seconds but they failed to muster any real attacks after that in the opening quarter and it was Fanad who were much the better side, led by big Michael Sweeney at midfield.
Up front the two Seamie Friels were giving the Killybegs defence plenty of trouble. Seamie ‘Coshia’ levelled from a free on six minutes and Seamie ‘Nanny’ pointed a ‘45’ three minutes later after a ‘Coshia’ free was off target but was carried over the endline.
‘Nanny’ Friel added a third from play on 15 minutes before Brendan Boyle got the second point for the home side on 18 minutes.
The home side did improve in the second quarter and a good turnover by Hugh McFadden saw Conal Molloy drive through and his effort for goal was deflected onto the crossbar and away to safety on 30 minutes. They did, however, get on level terms on 32 minutes when Matthew Smyth drew a foul and Conal Molloy pointed.
Half-time: Killybegs 0-3, Fanad Gaels 0-3.
The presence of Donegal manager Jim McGuinness in the ground may have been communicated to the players at half-time. That, along with a rollicking from the respective management teams, could be the reason why the second half was a much more competitive affair.
Killybegs got their noses in front for the first time two minutes into the new half when Jason Noctor started the move that was finished by Matthew Smyth.
Brendan Boyle added another and Smyth fired over from distance to open a three point gap on 36 minutes for a completely different Killybegs side.
Seamie ‘Coshia’ Friel hit the point of the game a minute later and then clashed with Noctor but after the intervention of linesman Connie Doherty no action was taken.
Matthew Smyth bravely intercepted a loose ball (and paid the penalty with a cut ear which needed treatment) and it led to Christopher Murrin setting up Brendan Faherty for Killybegs’ seventh point.
As the game entered the final ten minutes it looked as if Killybegs were on their way to the quarter-final but Seamus ‘Nanny’ Friel converted his second ‘45’ of the evening to cut the margin to two.
Matthew Smyth, back on with a plaster on his ear, won a free for Brendan Boyle to point from 45m, but Seamus ‘Nanny’ replied, also from a 45m free on 56 minutes.
With two minutes of normal time left Paul McGinley started a move deep in his own half and continued his run to take a return pass and hit a great score to put Killybegs three clear again.
But there was still drama to come as Seamie ‘Nanny’ converted a free two minutes into added time. Fanad threw everything at the Killybegs goal but it seemed as if their efforts were to no avail before Seamie ‘Nanny’ dropped in a free and big Michael Sweeney got on the end of it and flicked it past Michael Mullen.
A point ahead, Fanad looked to have stolen it, but Killybegs came forward and won a free, which was moved on swiftly and Brendan Boyle remained calm to hit a great and deserved equaliser.
For the watching Donegal manager, midfielders Matthew Smyth, Christopher Murrin and Michael Sweeney did enough to merit a second visit while Shane ‘Baker’ Boyle and Shane Molloy also impressed. Patrick McConigley was his usual effective self for Fanad with his usual driving runs while Seamie ‘Nanny’ Friel was largely responsible for the visitors’ being still in this contest.
Killybegs: Michael Mullen; Ciaran Conaghan, Jason Noctor, David Conwell; Paul McGinley (0-1), Shane Molloy, Shane Boyle; Matthew Smyth (0-2), Christopher Murrin (0-1); Daniel Breslin, Hugh McFadden, Pauric Gallagher; Conal Molloy (0-1, 1f), Brendan Boyle (0-4, 2f), Brendan Maguire. Subs., Brendan Faherty (0-1) for Maguire (20); Charles Tully for Breslin (34); Mark Boyle for Gallagher (50); Barry Cannon for C Molloy (63).
Fanad Gaels: Mark McConigley; Paddy Heraghty, Cathal Martin, Francis Sweeney; Paddy Shiels, Patrick McConigley, Joe Blaney; Eoghan Walsh, Michael Sweeney (1-0); Seamie ‘Nanny’ Friel (0-5, 2f, 2 ‘45’), Fergal Friel, Ciaran McElwaine; Aidan McAteer, Seamie ‘Coshia’ Friel (0-2, 1f), Mark Friel. Subs., Jimmy Coyle for P Shiels; Conal Talbot for McAteer (both 49).
Referee: Michael Mulhern (St. Eunan’s)
Man of the match
A very difficult choice with Matthew Smyth, Michael Sweeney, Shane Molloy and Seamie ‘Nanny’ Friel the main contenders. The award goes to Seamie Friel for keeping Fanad in the game when it was slipping away from them and he was involved in most of their good work.
There were a few twists. The period at the start of the second half saw Killybegs take a firm grip, but Fanad refused to lie down and the biggest turning point came with the goal from Michael Sweeney in the 35th minute of the second half.
Michael Mulhern had the spotlight on him at the end but overall he had a good game, keeping a tight grip. However, for much of this game it hardly had the fervour associated with championship football and that helped him in keeping control.