Any Donegal football follower looking at the Division 1 league table on Sunday morning would have been excused in assuming an easy win for Naomh Conaill over the bottom of the table Gaoth Dobhair in their encounter at Davy Brennan Memorial Park on Sunday afternoon.
Naomh Conaill 1-10
Gaoth Dobhair 1-8
Report: Muriel Hegarty
However considering how much was at stake for Gaoth Dobhair and their proud tradition, in reality this was never going to be the case. In a tough encounter Gaoth Dobhair gave as good as they got for 55 minutes and were only pipped to the post following a purple patch for Naomh Conaill at the end of the game.
With Gaoth Dobhair lining out without six first team players absent due to injury, Naomh Conaill were quick to register the first score from county player Dermot Molloy. However Gaoth Dobhair with the aid of a strong breeze replied emphatically with three frees, two from Cathal Mulligan and one from Sean Doherty.
These were quickly followed in the 9th minute by a Kevin Cassidy point to leave the Gaoth Dobhair men ahead 4-1. Naomh Conaill replied through Brendan McDyre only for Gaoth Dobhair to respond with a further two points from Kevin Cassidy and Ronan McNelis.
At this point Gaoth Dobhair were commanding proceedings in the middle of the field and Naomh Conaill were finding it particularly difficult to put together any cohesive attack.
Naomh Conaill needed some inspiration and this was provided in the 21st minute when the Naomh Conaill full-back Johnny Bonner powered upfield to swing over a truly inspirational point which almost lifted the roof of the stand.
Almost immediately Brendan McDyre turned over a ball on the Gaoth Dobhair 20 metre line and fed Dermot Molloy who duly despatched the ball to the Gaoth Dobhair net.
This left the teams level approaching half time but a handling error by Naomh Conaill in front of goal gave Gaoth Dobhair a free which saw them in at half time a point to the good.
With the Naomh Conaill team now playing with the tricky breeze at their back and with Eamonn McGee having been substituted in the first half with a hamstring injury many of the home supporters were confident that they would be able to press their advantage home and put the game to bed.
With the second half just two minutes old Dermot Molloy swung over a good point from the right wing to put the teams on level scores but this was immediately followed by a Gaoth Dobhair 45m free from Michael Roarty to put Gaoth Dobhair ahead by one once again.
In the 7th minute Anthony Thompson rose commandingly to field a ball and drove forward to despatch the ball over the bar to level scores once again. Then in the 11th minute a Leon Thompson effort was deflected out for a 45 which was duly despatched by John O’Malley to put Naomh Conaill ahead for the first time since the 2nd minute of the game.
With Gaoth Dobhair needing support up front All-Star Neil McGee drove forward into the Naomh Conaill box and was taken down and after short delay referee Jimmy White pointed to the penalty spot. The kick was taken by James Carroll who managed to send Naomh Conaill keeper Stephen McGrath the wrong way and put Gaoth Dobhair into a commanding two point lead with just 15 minutes left to play.
However this was to be their last score of the game. A point by Brendan Mc Dyre in the 20th minute brought Naomh Conaill back to one point but dogged defending by Gaoth Dobhair meant that Naomh Conaill did not get their equalising point until the 29th minute of the second half. This came courtesy of AJ Gallagher who has a solid hour in the blue and white jersey.
With the momentum with the tidy towns men the last two scores by Dermot Molloy (free) and Seamus Corcoran had an air of inevitability.
This was an encounter that the league leaders were happy to come away with two points from. While Gaoth Dobhair may be propping up the table, they showed that they have the ability to take points from most teams in the league and may even cause a surprise come championship time.
Naomh Conaill: Stephen McGrath, Jason Campbell, Johnny Bonner (0-1), Stephen Molloy, Anthony Thompson(0-1), Thomas Donoghue, Marty Boyle, Leo McLoone, AJ Gallagher (0-1), Brendan McDyre (0-2), Seamus Corcoran (0-1), John O’Malley (0-1, 1 45m), Dermot Molloy (1-3, 1f), Johnny McLoone, Leon Thompson. Subs: Martin Regan for Johnny McLoone, Cathal Ellis for Jason Campbell, Daragh Gallagher for Seamus Corcoran, Seamus Corcoran for Brendan McDyre.
Gaoth Dobhair: Christopher Sweeney, Danny Curran, Neil McGee, Ciaran Ferry, Joe Duffy, Eamonn McGee, Paul Mulligan, Kevin Cassidy (0-2), Peter McGee, Manny Gallagher, Sean Doherty(0-1), James Carrol(1-1, 1 pen 1 f), Cathal Mulligan(0-2, 2f), Ronan McNelis(0-1), Owen Ward. Subs: Michael Roarty (0-1,’45’) for Eamonn McGee.