John Haran of St. Eunan's, battling for possession during Sunday's game at O'Donnell Park. Photo: Brian McDaid.
St. Eunan’s came from four points down at half-time to run out impressive winners in the meeting of the top two in Group D at O’Donnell Park.
St. Eunan’s . . . 0-15
Naomh Conaill . . . 1-8
It was a great response from the Letterkenny side who looked out of sorts in a first half which was bossed by Naomh Conaill.
Ciaran Thompson struck for a brilliant goal for the visitors on 11 minutes and they were well on top with Dermot ‘Brick’ Molloy, Anthony Thompson and Eoin Waide all very prominent.
However, Niall O’Donnell came off the bench at half time for St. Eunan’s and he kicked four points to lead the home team’s fight-back.
Caolan Ward also kicked two excellent scores as St. Eunan’s kicked on to win in style.
The only downside to an otherwise fine game was an ugly flare-up close to the finish involving several players from both teams.
When calm was eventually restored, match referee Jimmy White brandished red cards to St. Eunan’s keeper Blake Forkan and Naomh Conaill substitute, Seamus Corcoran.
Both teams went into this game seeking a third win from three in the group and it was the visitors who started the livelier with Anthony Thompson kicking them in front when he could so easily have gone for goal.
John O’Malley lofted over a free soon after before St. Eunan’s opened their account through Conall Dunne.
Naomh Conaill, however, were very impressive in the early stages and after Dermot ‘Brick’ Molloy kicked over a free, they struck for a goal on 11 minutes. Some quick thinking at a line-ball saw Eoin Waide released down the left into acres of space. His quickly made progress into the Eunan’s half before releasing Ciaran Thomspon inside and the county star picked his spot, firing low into the bottom corner.
That put Naomh Conaill 1-3 to 0-1 in front. St. Eunan’s, try as they might, just couldn’t gain a foothold and while Lee McMonigle (free) and Dunne raised white flags, by the end of the first quarter, they trailed by five, 1-5 to 0-3.
They did enjoy a decent spell after that with Dunne and Rory Kavanagh particularly influential. Cillian Morrison, Sean McVeigh and Darragh Mulgrew all kicked good scores for the home side, but Naomh Conaill still went in at the break four points to the good, 1-7 to 0-6, with Eoin Waide knocking over the half’s final score after another good attacking move.
St. Eunan’s however, were a completely different side in the second half. The introduction of Niall O’Donnell had a massive influence on the game and by the end of the third quarter, the sides were level, 0-11 to 1-8 with Ward, Rory Kavanagh and Conor Gibbons among the St. Eunan’s scorers and Marty Boyle responding for Naomh Conaill.
That Boyle point, which came on 38 minutes, was to prove Naomh Conaill’s only score of the half.
In contrast, St. Eunan’s found their range time and again with O’Donnell, kicking four points, two of them from play.
The win means St. Eunan’s go through to the quarter-finals as group winners and on their second half performance alone, they can approach the next stage of the competition with plenty of confidence.
St. Eunan’s: Blake Forkan; Sean Hensey, Conor Morrison, Conor Parke; Barry McGeehin, Conor O'Donnell, Caolan Ward (0-2); Eamonn Doherty, Darragh Mulgrew (0-1); Lee McMonagle (0-1, 1f), Rory Kavanagh (0-1), Sean McVeigh (0-1); Conall Dunne (0-2), John Haran, Cillian Morrison (0-1).
Subs: Michael Miller for McMonagle (19), Niall O’Donnell (04, 2f) for Cillian Morrison (h-time), Darragh Toal for C O’Donnell (36), Conor Gibbons (0-1) for Haran (45), Rory Carr (0-1) for Dunne (51), Matthew Gallagher for McGeehin (57)
Naomh Conaill: Stephen McGrath; Aaron Thompson, Jason Campbell, Ultan Doherty; Eunan Doherty, Anthony Thompson (0-1), Eoin Waide (0-1); Ciaran Thompson (1-0), Ethan O'Donnell; Marty Boyle (0-1), Dermot Molloy (0-2, 1f), Johnny Bonner; Brendan McDyer (0-1), Jeaic Mac Ceallbhuí, John O'Malley (0-2, 1f).
Subs: Seamus Corcoran for Mac Ceallbhuí (38), Logan Quinn for Boyle (40), Eoin McGettigan for O’Malley (43), Johnny for Quinn (b-card 51), Leon Thompson for U Doherty (58).
Referee: Jimmy White (Killybegs).