Neil Gallagher, made his return from injury for Glenswilly.
The champions Glenswilly got the win they so badly wanted when they had too much for Ardara in their Group C opener on Sunday afternoon.
Glenswilly . . . 0-15
Ardara . . . 1-7
With away games to come against Gaoth Dobhair and Kilcar, Glenswilly knew how important a victory was against an Ardara team who beat them in the group stages last year.
But despite their best efforts, Ardara just couldn't muster an upset in the glorious sunshine at Pairc Naomh Columba.
Ardara’s prospects weren’t helped by the loss to a black card of Paddy McGrath after only 15 minutes. The county defender was rightly punished for hauling down Michael Murphy after the two tangled on the Ardara ‘21.
From the resultant free, Gary McFadden kicked Glenswilly in front for the first time in the contest, 0-3 to 0-2. It was a lead they would hold for the rest of the game.
Ardara had opened well weith CJ Molloy and Gareth Concarr kicking early frees.
But once they kicked into gear, Glenswilly, who included Neil Gallagher at midfield, soon began to find their range. After McFadden kicked them in front, they hit four more unanswered points with Michael Murphy and the excellent Ciaran Bonner among their scorers. It put Glenswilly 0-7 to 0-2 in front and while Ardara hit back with another Concarr free, by half-time the home side led 0-9 to 0-4.
Ardara got off to a wonderful start in the second half with Simon Breslin winning possession from the throw-in before offloading to Molloy who raced forward before slamming the ball into the corner of the net from long range.
Concarr quickly followed that goal up with a well taken free and all of a sudden, Glenswilly’s lead was cut to just a point.
The home side sought a response of their own and frees from Murphy and McFadden put them 0-11 to 1-5 in front by the end of the third quarter.
As Ardara introduced a couple of substitutes, the changes seemed to give them a lift and scores from Lorcan O’Donnell and Johnny Herron got them back to within a point again.
As the game entered the closing eight minutes, it was delicately poised.
Murphy missed a relatively easy free for Glen. But typical of the Donegal captain, he made up for his miss by pouncing on the short kick-out and sending the ball over the bar.
He followed that up with a well taken free and when Bonner added another two, Glenswilly were well on their way to a five-point win.
It was far from convincing, but Glenswilly did enough to suggest that they will again be a force to be reckoned with this year. The return of Gallagher at midfield was a timely boost and he played well, as did Bonner, and the reliable Eamon Ward in defence.
For Ardara, Brian Whyte, John Ross Molloy and CJ Molloy all caught the eye.
GLENSWILLY: Philip O’Donnell; Ruairi Crawford, Eamon Ward, Patrick McFadden; Ryan Hunter, Aidan McDevitt, Joe Gibbons; Neil Gallagher (0-1), Leon Kelly; Oisin Crawford, Ciaran Bonner (0-4), Caoimhin Marley; Gary McFadden (0-5, 2f), Michael Murphy (0-5, 4f), Caolan Kelly.
Subs: Ciaran Gibbons for Hunter (48), Caolan McFadden for Marley (58), Conor Boyce for P McFadden (60).
ARDARA: Cathal Gallagher; Paddy McGrath, Nicholas Breslin, Brian Whyte; Kelvin Slowey, John Ross Molloy, Nicholas Maguire; Simon Breslin, CJ Molloy (1-2, 2f); Paul Watters, Oisin O’Donnell, Lorcan O’Donnell (0-1); Gareth Concarr (0-3, 3f), Ryan Malley, Kieran Breslin.
Subs: Johnny Herron for McGrath (b card 15), Brendan McNelis for N Breslin (20), Kevin Herron for Slowey (38), Jack Brennan (0-1) for S Breslin (44).
Referee: James Connors (St. Eunan’s).