A five star display from goalkeeper Mark McConigley helped Gaeil Fhánada to another three point win, this time over a stubborn and hard working Letterkenny Gaels side. McConigley saved a penalty from Letterkenny's Darren Hunter at a crucial stage in the game while also made four other critical saves over the hour.
Letterkenny Gaels 0-8
Gaeil Fhánada 0-11
Fanad burst into life right from the start and raced into a three point lead. A Michael Sweeney shot ricocheted out for a 45 and Seami Nanny Friel split the posts with a beautiful strike from the resultant '45 to get Fanad off the mark.
Fanad were winning the midfield battle and this was the platform for the majority of Fanad's next few scores, Nanny cut through the Letterkenny defence and fired over before Sweeney opened his account from wide on the right to push Fanad into a three point lead.
Odhran Shiels raced through and almost manufactured a goal chance but in the end got no reward for his efforts as his shot caught the breeze and drifted wide. From here, Letterkenny started to find their feet. Mikey Harte was getting on plenty ball and big Paddy Doherty at full forward was proving a handful but met his match in Frank Sweeney. Letterkenny's first effort on McConigley's goal was an attempt at a three pointer which McConigley dealt with comfortably.
A wide by Sweeney was followed by another goal chance for Letterkenny, this time from Sean McDonagh, his effort was pushed out for a '45 which goalkeeper Shane Graham dispatched off with ease. Sweeney then danced through to pop over his second on 12 minutes only for Letterkenny to respond with the next two scores, one off the boot of Ciaran Cannon with the other coming from Sean McDonagh. Sweeney struck for his third which was followed by two excellent points from the impressive Oisin Shiels and another from Nanny to open up a four point lead.
A moment of madness from McConigley almost led to a Letterkenny goal, he came for a long ball which deceived the entire defence and only for a last gasp interception from James Gallagher the ball would have ended up in the net. Graham duly placed the resulting 45 over. Oisin Shiels then struck a majestic point from his weaker left foot to again make it a four point game on 26 minutes. The last five minutes of the half belonged to Letterkenny but they only had one point to show for their efforts, a clinker from Nicky McGarrigle. Great credit must be given to the Fanad defence who hassled and harried and forced Letterkenny into shooting from difficult angles each time.
HT: Letterkenny Gaels 0-5, Gaeil Fhánada 0-8
The opening of the second half was tit for tat, both teams being wasteful in possession but it was Jonny Friel who hit the first score after impressive build up starting from Frank Sweeney in the corner back position. Then came the penalty - a moment of complete indecision among the usually solid Fanad defence led to Harte ready to pull the trigger only for James Gallagher to foul. Gallagher was yellow carded for his troubles. Hunter went right with his penalty but so did McConigley to push it out for a '45, which again, Graham converted.
Eoghan Carr and Seami Coshia Friel entered the fray on 40 minutes replacing both Niall Carr and Alan McAteer who worked hard inside. The Letterkenny outfit were playing the better football but couldn't manufacture a score. Fanad then hit three poor wides, one from Oisin McFadden (who replaced Jonny Friel), one from Oisin Shiels and a daisy cutter from Paddy Carr (who replaced Miley McBride). McDonagh reduced it to a two point game from a 13m free and repeated the trick a minute later to leave the minimum between the sides.
Seami Nanny then drove over a monster free and Oisin Shiels hit his third of the evening to open up some breathing space for Fanad. Letterkenny tried to create a goal opportunity as the game came to a close but found it difficult to get through the Fanad rearguard. Aiden Heraghty replaced Kevin McGonigle and made a crucial stop on McDonagh with seconds remaining. Seami Coshia Friel then dropped an effort short but the resulting attack from Letterkenny was nipped in the bud and with that the referee called for time.
Overall, Fanad will be satisfied with the result. McConigley was starting his first game since the tail end of 2014 so it was good to see him flourishing. Both teams were missing a number of regulars. Fanad were without the injured Ryan McGonigle, Shaun McElwaine and Brian McVeigh while Letterkenny Gaels were absent sharpshooter Conor McBrearty, Brendan O'Brien and Mark Hunter.
LETTERKENNY GAELS: Shane Graham (0-3), Kevin Kilkenny, Cahair O'Dochartaigh, Conor Browne, Brian Diver, Darren Hunter, Oisin Mc Elhinney, Ciaran Cannon(0-1), Shane Mc Glade, Liam Doherty, Nicky Mc Garrigle(0-1), Mikey Harte, Ciaran Lynch, Paddy Doherty, Séan Mc Donagh(0-2), Subs: John Doran for P.Doherty.
GAEIL FHANADA: M.McConigley, F.Sweeney, J.Coyle, K.McGonigle, O.Shiels, J.Gallagher, M. McBride, S. Nanny Friel (0-4, 2f, 1 45), M. Sweeney (0-3), J. Friel (0-1). M. Friel, O. Shiels (0-3), N. Carr, P. Heraghty, A. McAteer. Subs: E. Carr for N. Carr, Seami Coshia Friel for A.McAteer, Paddy Carr for M. McBride, Oisin McFadden for J. Friel, Aiden Heraghty for K. McGonigle.
Referee: Greg Mc Groary (Four Masters)