Beaten semi-finalists last year, Malin produced an impressive comeback to seal a crucial win over MacCumhaill’s at Connolly Park on Saturday night.
Malin . . . 1-13
MacCumhaill’s . . . 0-11
Malin trailed by four points at half-time, but with the wind at their backs in the second half, they fought back to win in style, keeping MacCumhaill’s scoreless until Aaron Kelly kicked an injury time free at the finish.
Benny 'Fildara' McLaughlin was the match-winner, scoring 1-8 of his team’s total, his goal coming right at the end to crown a super individual display.
The victory means the Inishowen club have given themselves a real chance of qualifying from Group A, despite losing heavily against Bundoran in their opening game.
Having each suffered defeats in their opening group games, this was almost a must-win encounter for both teams and it was pretty even in the first half.
Malin started well and were two points to the good inside the opening three minutes with Benny McLaughlin scoring twice, once from play and once from a free.
However, points from Marty O’Reilly (free) and Gavin Gallagher had the visitors level soon after and for much of the half, it was nip and tuck. By the 23rd minute, the sides were still level at 0-4 apiece. However, with the aid of a strong breeze, MacCumhaill’s enjoyed a purple patch with O’Reilly (two frees), Gary Wilson Benny McLaughlin, Steven O’Reilly and Stephen Mulligan (free) all raising white flags to put their team 0-10 to 0-5 in front.
Right on the stroke of half-time, Benny McLaughlin kicked a free for Malin, to bring them to within four of MacCumhaill’s at the break.
The visitors would have been happy with their first half display, but Malin, with the win advantage in the second half, soon began to eat into the lead.
McLaughlin kicked two early points and Matty Byrne delivered a wonderful effort between the posts and suddenly the margin was down to just one.
Substitute Seamus Doherty levelled the game before McLaughlin knocked over a close range free to put Malin in front, 0-11 to 0-10, on 40 minutes.
The scores kept coming for the home side. Declan Walsh knocked over a wonderful point off the outside of his right boot to make it a two-point game before Sean Kelly made it 0-13 to 0-10 with another good score.
Then came Benny McLaughlin’s goal, the half forward slamming the ball home after his initial effort had come back off the post.
It was the score Malin needed to kill off the MacCumhaill’s challenge, although the visitors were guilty of kicking four wides in a row before the goal - and two of those were from close-in frees.
With St. Michael’s to play at home in their final game, Malin aren’t sure of qualification just yet. But their prospects of extending their championship run are suddenly looking a lot better.
Malin: Martin McLaughlin; Gary Farren, Damien Harkin, Conor Farren; Ciaran McColgan, Declan Walsh (0-1), Paul McLaughlin; Michael Byrne, John Gerard McLaughlin; Dan McDaid, Matty Byrne (0-1), Brendan McLaughlin (1-8, 5f); Christopher McLaughlin (0[-1), Sean Kelly (0-1), Joe Doherty. Subs: Seamus Doherty (0-1) for J Doherty (16), Seamus Houghton for McDaid (36), Conor Gallagher for G Farren (59), Oisin McGonigle for C McLaughlin (60).
MacCumhaill’s: Eoin Gallen; Adam Lynch, Martin Gallagher, Mark Connolly; Darren McGowan, Rory Dunleavy, Padraig Patton; Nathan Gavigan, Gavin Gallagher (0-1); Gary Wilson (0-1), Marty O’Reilly (0-3, 3f), Stephen Mulligan (0-3, 2f); Steven O’Reilly (0-1), Benny McLaughlin (0-1), Brian Lafferty.
Subs: Joe Dunnion for M. Gallagher (37), Aaron Kelly (0-1 f) for Connolly (37).
Referee: Andrew Mullin (Killybegs).