The victorious St. Eunan's U-16 hurlers
St. Eunan’s retained the Donegal U-16 hurling championship on Saturday afternoon, defeating Dungloe/Gaoth Dobhair in a repeat of last year’s decider in a wet and windy Mac Cumhaill Park.
St. Eunan’s . . . 2-7
Dungloe/Gaoth Dobhair . 1-7
Two goals from St. Eunan's forward Russell Forde proved vital in the end as these teams served up a hugely entertaining encounter.
St. Eunan’s opened the scoring with a 4th minute free from Shane O’Donnell, but with conditions making scoring difficult it took until the 16th minute before Paul O’Donnell doubled their lead.
Daithi MacRoibeaird, who was consistently accurate from frees throughout, replied for Dungloe/Gaoth Dobhair on 18 minutes, before Letterkenny corner forward Russell Forde found the net two minutes later.
Dungloe/Gaoth Dobhair stormed back into the game with a second free from MacRoibeaird and a well taken goal from Dara MacSuibhne, who finished a loose ball in the square to the net in the 23rd minute. Eoin Dowling put St. Eunan’s ahead again on 27 minutes, leaving one point between the teams at half time, St. Eunan’s 1-3 Dungloe 1-2.
MacRoibeaird levelled matters again immediately after the restart. The next ten minutes were dominated by both defences, with the strength of Keenan Barrett, Andrew O’Connor and Rory Doherty in the Letterkenny defence being matched by Martin Mannion and Odhran McGonagle for the westerners, who fielded players from Dungloe, Gaoth Dobhair and Naomh Muire.
The critical period of the game came in the middle ten minutes of the second half. In the 42nd minute Forde cleverly diverted a long range free to the net. With Shane O’Donnell and Oisin Randles continuing to dominate midfield St. Eunan’s pressure finally started to tell. In a five minute spell the Letterkenny men struck four points, two from Shane O’Donnell, one from Gavin Forde and free from Paul O’Donnell.
Dungloe/Gaoth Dobhair showed huge character to drag themselves back into the game, with Brendan Boyle and James Hartnett providing a platform of possession. After a 20 metre free from MacRoibeaird was saved by the outstanding St. Eunan’s goalkeeper Cian Harkin, MacSuibhne pointed again for Dungloe/Gaoth Dobhair and MacRoibeaird scored three frees in the closing minutes.
This left a goal between the teams entering added time. Despite constant pressure the St. Eunan’s rearguard held firm and time ran out for challengers.
Eunan O’Donnell’s team, assisted by Gordon Randles and Mickey Forde, have completed the league and championship double. Great credit is due to Cormac Hartnett, Eddie Glackin, Daithi Roberts and their club coaches Daniel Boyle, Philip Rodgers and Sean McGonagle for producing consistently high level hurlers in the clubs of north west of Donegal.
ST EUNAN'S: Cian Harkin; Matthew Noonan, Keenan Barrett, James O’Donnell; Jack Gallagher, Andrew O’Connor, Rory Doherty; Oisin Randles, Shane O’Donnell (0-3, 1f); Paul O’Donnell (0-2, 2f), Eoin Dowling (0-1), Gavin Forde (0-1); Peter Kelly, Dylan Doogan, Russell Forde (2-0). Subs: Thomas Crossan, Mark Cannon, Mark Mulholland, Calvin Aldoo, Damien Whoriskey, Noel O’Donnell, David Kilcullen, Johnny Lambe, Ronan Kelly.
DUNGLOE/GAOTH DOBHAIR: Philip Rodgers; Oran Duffy, Martin Mannion, Joe Greene; Aidan Breathnach, Odhran McGonagle, Dillon Boyle; Brendan Boyle, John Boyle; Eoin de Burca, Lochlainn O’Dea, Sean O’Donnell; Dara MacSuibhne (1-1), James Hartnett, Daithi MacRoibeaird (0-6, 6f). Subs: Ben Boyle, Cathal Rodgers, Michael Greene, Yarin McNeil, Conor Diver, Jordan Gallagher, Michael O’Donnell, Brendan O’Donnell.