Hot favourites, St Eunan’s deservedly won this encounter at an icy Convoy but understrength Aodh Ruadh gave the Letterkenny lads some hairy moments.
St Eunan’s 0-12
Aodh Ruadh 1-6
The 2011 county minor champions had six of their county final winning senior side on duty, and on paper looked a safe bet for an easy victory.
Stellar figures like Sean Daffan, Conor Morrison, Conor Parke, Odhran McGinley and Darragh Mulgrew were expected to have far too much power and panache for an Aodh Ruadh side that was minus Ronan McGurrin, Colm Kelly, Pauric Patton and Jamie McDonald.
But despite impressive approach play, the Letterkenny lads were unable to penetrate the last line of a doughty Ballyshannon defence, brilliantly marshalled by the excellent Eamon McGrath.
Bustling midfielder Conor O’Donnell expertly drove St Eunan’s forward and wing forward Darragh Mulgrew and Lee McMonagle looked very dangerous in the opening 20 minutes.
But the Ballyshannon underdogs played a patient defensive game and looked quite threatening on the break, on relatively limited possession.
St Eunan’s played into a breeze in a low scoring first half as they patiently probed for openings.
And they were well worth their half-time lead of 0-4 to 0-3.
The Eunan’s scores came from in form marksman Sean Hume, Dara Mulgrew and Lee McMonagle.
Ballyshannon replied through their free-taker David McGurrin, Ryan Granaghan and Niall Murray.
Despite their obvious superiority, St Eunan’s had to rely on a brilliant block from Barry McGeehin to deny Philip Patton a goal in the 20th minute as St Eunan’s led by 0-3 to 0-2.
And very well struck points from Niall Murray for Aodh Ruadh and Lee McMonagle for Eunan’s left the Letterkenny lads ahead by a mere point.
Aodh Ruadh were very unlucky not to goal within 15 seconds of the restart when wing forward Johnny Gethins ran through the Letterkenny defence only to see his screaming goal bound shot go off the post.
Ballyshannon had two more goal chances in this half but the Letterkenny defence stood firm.
A screaming cross from Philip Patton was flicked on by sub Oisin Roper but Eunan’s keeper Sean Daffan saved at the expense of a 45.
And Daffan also brilliantly denied Aodh Ruadh’s David McGurrin’s point blank effort in the 50th minute
Hume and senior star Conor Parke, who kicked two magnificent long-range points, kept St Eunan’s firmly in command.
And Hume was a real Eunan’s hero after landing six points including two very well executed 45s in glacial conditions.
But while the winners frequently threatened to unhinge Aodh Ruadh they hit nine wides to their opponents three over the hour.
It looked like those long-range points from Parke and Hume had sealed the deal for Eunans as they led by 0-12 to 0-6, until Conor Patton cleverly flicked a Ryan Granaghan centre to the Letterkenny net with three minutes to go.
Cue a virtual siege of the St Eunan’s goal as Aodh Ruadh came at the winners in waves but the hot favourites held out for a deserved if unimpressive victory.
St Eunan’s were well worth their victory but will know that a similar display against the likes of Kilcar would just not be good enough.
But they have the players and power to make a real impression in this competition.
Last year’s Donegal Under 21 B champions Aodh Ruadh were stepping up in class.
In truth they were not expected to offer any real resistance, given their crucial absentees.
But they delivered an excellent display in the circumstances and will be ruing to those clear goaling chances that slipped so narrowly away.
St Eunan’s: S Daffan; C Morrison, C Parke (0-2) O McGinley; J McBride, Foley, D McMonagle; C O’Donnell, O Carr; B McGeehin, L McMonagle (0-2), D Mulgrew (0-2); S Hume (0-6, 2,45, 2f), J O’Dowd, K Meehan. Subs: R Carr for K Meehan (h-time), D McWalter for O Carr (54), D Tyrell for J Foley (55)
Aodh Ruadh: D Kelly; E Drummond, R Patton, P J Gillespie; C O’Halloran, E McGrath, E Lynch; C Patton (1-0), N Harley, J Gethins (0-1), R Granaghan (0-1), N Murray (0-1), P Patton (0-1), D McGurrin (0-2,2f), J Gallagher. Subs: O Roper for N Murray (h-time), T Hope for J Gallagher (47), T Anderson for J Gethins (56).
Referee: J White (Killybegs).