Kilcar bridged a seven year gap to claim a fourth Donegal Senior Reserve Championship title with this victory over Four Masters in the Senior Reserve final in Ballybofey on Sunday evening.
Four Masters 1-5
The game, which was originally billed to be the curtain-raiser to the senior final meeting of Glenswilly and St. Michael’s, was not played until after the senior decider and had a 6.30 pm throw.
This was due to the death of Jim McHugh, from Kilcar, grandfather of Ryan and Eoin McHugh, who both played in the game.
On a weekend that the club and Kilcar lost the head of one of it’s great GAA households not alone did his two grandsons play, but also played significant roles in the thoroughly deserved victory.
Ryan was the team’s top scorer with a personal tally of five points - four of them from frees - while his first cousin Eoin was in fine form at wing back and gave his cousin a close run for man of the match.
But overall this was a fine team performance from Kilcar. Their packed defence and searing pace on the break really troubled the defending champions who, while playing second fiddle in the possession stakes, hung in right to the finish.
And despite looking out of it for spells in both halves Damien Dunnion’s men were just a kick of a ball away from retaining their crown at the finish.
Kilcar led by a point at half-time, 0-5 to 1-1, having given away an early advantage by conceding an own goal after one of their defenders, James Carr, somehow deflected into his own net.
Twice in the second half they moved out to a three point advantage but on each occasion were pegged back to one by a dogged and determined Four Masters before pulling two clear again in the closing minutes.
Kilcar struck the game’s two opening scores. Gerard McBrearty scored the first from a 20 metre free after four minutes and Ryan McHugh converted the second seven minutes later from 40 metres.
But despite showing all the early promise Kilcar were rocked on 13 minutes when the ball ended up in the back of Sean Garvey’s net after deflected by James Carr in a crowded goalmouth.
All of a sudden Four Masters were in front. However, the advantage was shortlived as McHugh once again split the posts from close on 40 metres and out on the Stand side to tie up the game at 0-4 to 1-1.
Matthew McClean with his side’s opening point from play edged Kilcar back in front before Benny Cassidy released Hugh McPartland who pointed at the other end.
Both sides had chances and Kilcar had a number of wides before Pauric Sweeney, three minutes from half-time, saw the men from the South West go in one up at the interval, 0-5 to 1-1.
Sweeney extended the Kilcar lead within two minutes of the restart and they were three in front shortly afterwards when Ryan McHugh got on the end of a good move with a delightful long range effort.
But as was the case in the first half when it looked like Kilcar were going to kick on the Masters were back in the game by the 37th minute thanks to two quick fire points from Conor McDaid (40 metre free) and Niall Cassidy from play. Cassidy punished a poor clearance to knock over from close range.
Ryan McHugh from another free and Dermot McGinley from play, both scores the product of two penetrating runs from deep by Eoin McHugh, restored Kilcar’s three point advantage.
With Shane Gillespie making an impact, the gap was down to one again with four minutes of normal time remaining thanks to strikes from Pauric Harvey and Gillespie.
But two minutes from the end Ryan McHugh landed a 40 metre free out of the hands to ease the pressure on the champions-in-waiting, who held on despite some late pressure from the Masters.
Kilcar: Sean Garvey; Ciaran O’Donnell, Philip O’Donnell, James Carr (1-0, og); Eoin McHugh, James Cunningham, Stephen O’Donnell; Conor Cunningham, Mark McShane; Barry McBrearty, Ryan McHugh (0-5,4f), Liam Doherty; Matthew McClean (0-1), Pauric Sweeney (0-2), Gerard McBrearty (0-1,1f). Subs: Dermot McGinley (0-1) for B. McBrearty (h/t); Dara Byrne for M. McClean (48); Phelim O’Donnell for L. Doherty (60).
Four Masters: Sean Martin; Enda Bonner, Shane Browne, Ryan O’Donnell; John Boyle, Jamie McCrea, Pauric Harvey (0-1); Charlie Gallagher, Ciaran Cassidy; Hugh McPartland (0-1), Declan Bushell, Benny Cassidy; Ryan Earley, Niall Cassidy (0-1), Conor McDaid (0-1). Subs: Shane Gillespie (0-1) for D. Bushell (38); Rory O’Donnell for R. Earley (46); Paul McIntyre for C. Gallagher (54); Declan McMonagle for H. McPartland (58).
Referee: Ian Molloy (Naomh Conaill)