Downings will fly the Donegal flag again in the All-Ireland finals of Junior Comórtas Peile Na Gaeltachta following Bank Holiday Monday’s Donegal final win over Naomh Conaill.
Downings . . . . . . . . . . 2-11
Naomh Conaill . . . . . 2-7
The reigning Donegal champions and last year’s beaten All-Ireland finalists had four points to spare over Naomh Conaill’s Reserves after they came from six points down early in the second half.
Man of the match Gary ‘Ban’ McClafferty kicked six of his seven points in the second half and also saw his long range strike for a point come back of the crossbar and richochet off Tony Byrne for his side’s first goal.
Lorcan Connor, the latest recruit to Rory Gallagher’s Donegal senior squad, was also sprung from the bench late in the first half and scored the clinching goal close to the end.
“I thought we worked hard against the wind and conceded a bad goal but I still felt we were in with a chance at half-time even though were down by five points,” said Andy Connor, the Downings manager.
“With the conditions and the lads like Gary ‘Ban’ inside I always felt we had a chance and I thought we took great scores and Lorcan (Connor) got the goaI near the end to cap it off.”
Naomh Conaill played with the wind powered by veteran Johnny McLoone in the middle of the field, led 1-5 to 0-3 at half-time. McLoone scored 1-3 of their first half tally with his brother Michael and Maitis McKelvey posting the other two points.
Colin Gallagher, Gary ‘Ban’ and Lorcan Connor scored the first half points to keep Downings in touch.
Gary ‘Ban’ kicked two quick points on the resumption to reduce the margin to three. But then Naomh Conaill were awarded a somewhat controversial goal when John McGroddy, the Downings keeper, seemed to be bundled over the line by Conal McNelis after taking a high ball under his crossbar.
“I thought it was a push on our goalkeeper. He caught the ball and was pushed over the line. I don’t know how the referee said it was okay. These things happen but we are just glad that it did not cost us the game.
“We got a bit of luck ourselves with Gary’s goal, but as they say you need a bit of luck to win anything.”
Downings responded with five points, four of them off the boot of Gary Ban and one from Oisin Boyce, to one from Paul McGuinness, to cut Naomh Conaill’s lead to two points, 2-6 to 0-10.
McGroddy saved from Hughie Gallagher before Gary ‘Bán’s’ long range effort ended up in the net off the keeper and all of a sudden Downings were in front with a little over two minutes of normal time remaining.
And 60 seconds later Downings were on their way when Lorcan Connor rounded Tony Byrne for goal number two and a 2-10 to 2-6 lead and the clock ticking.
In injury time Gary Ban made it a five point margin before Johnny McLoone brought down the curtain on the scoring with literally the last kick of the game.
Downings: John McGroddy (1-0, og); Marty McLaughlin, David Hay, Barry Trearty; Kevin Doherty, Bryan McGinley, Max Davis; Shaun McBride, Oisin Boyce (0-1); Finghin McClafferty, Jamie Lee McBride, Ben McBride; Colin Gallagher (0-2, 2fs), Gary ‘Ban’ McClafferty (0-7, 5fs), Shane Boyce. Subs: Lorcan Connor (1-1) for F.McClafferty (26,black card), Ben McNutt for M Davis (h/t), Dale McFadden for B McBride (54).
Naomh Conaill: Tony Byrne (1-0, og); Charlie McDonnell, Logan Quinn, Martin Gallagher; Dermot Ward, Mark Gallagher, Hughie Gallagher; Johnny McLoone (1-3,1f), Jamie McHugh; Paul McGuinness (0-2), Maitis Mac Ceallbhui (0-1), Michael McLoone (0-1); Seamus Ellis, Conal McNelis, Christopher Molloy. Subs: David Gallagher for M McLoone (27), Dominic Bonner for S Ellis (44 ).
Referee: Gabriel O’Donnell (Four Masters).