Bundoran's goal at MacCumhaill Park Picture Brian McDaid
MacCumhaills tightened their stranglehold at the top of the Division 2 standings with a superb victory over nearest rivals Bundoran this afternoon in Ballybofey.
Bernard McGeehan’s outfit managed to overturned a seven-point deficit at the start of the second-half and now go five clear at the top of Donegal football’s second tier.
The Seasiders were hot on their heels prior to the weekend and looked to be on their way to narrowing the gap as they exited at the midpoint with a deserving six-point cushion. When Johnny Boyle added another to that tally seconds into the new period, MacCumhaills appeared dead and buried as Bundoran moved out to 1-7 to 0-4.
But six unanswered overs from the home side managed to pull this one back from the brink and set up a frantic final quarter in Ballybofey. The front trio of Stephen Mulligan, Darren O’Leary and Brian Lafferty were excellent in that dominant period.
On 53 minutes Lafferty finally managed to kick MacCumhaills level on a scoreline of 0-12 to 1-9. Tommy Hourihane pushed the visitors ahead once again as we entered the 60th minute. But a long and searching ball in towards the edge of the square was punched home by the excellent O’Leary and, in the process, the prolific No 14 handed MacCumhaills the lead for the very first time.
That was in the initial seconds of five minutes of added time. Hourihane responded for Bundoran before Gavin Gallagher again marked that out down the other end. In the dying seconds O’Leary finally made sure of matters when he blazed in a second goal following a late, late counter.
Speaking after, boss McGeehan praised his side for their never-say-die attitude.
“You’d be delighted with that result,” he said. “I was telling the lads in there that it’s a good sign that we are finishing games so strongly. But we’re not happy with the first-half performances in the last few games.
“We’ve pulled it out of the fire though and I think that’s a reflection of the winter we put in. We know if we’re in the game going down the home straight we won’t be far away. We knew it was a big game – not just from the point of view of the table but for us psychologically.
“We’ve a very happy dressing room in there.”
McGeehan agreed that his full-forward line really shone when it mattered today. That complementary mixture of power and pace was at the fulcrum of this comeback. They posted 2-11 between them with O’Leary netting two vital three-pointers.
He added: “Yeah, and that’s what we’re trying to develop. We believe our six forwards are as good as anything that’s out there. It’s nice to have that balance between a bit of power and pace. In fairness, I thought defensively in the second-half we just chopped them down.
“We were turning over ball that was just sailing past us in the first-half. The platform really started there.”
MacCumhaills aren’t entertaining talk of a league title or a return to Division 1 just yet. It’s 13 seasons since they last competed there. But with an away trip to Malin up next, they’re not getting too far ahead of themselves.
“Listen, we’re just taking it game by game,” McGeehan continued. “That’s what we’ve asked the lads to do. I’m after saying it in there again… we don’t look at league tables. We just go out and treat every game the same. The next game now again becomes the most important one to us.
“If we keep winning games of football we’ll be there or there abouts. There are a lot of good teams behind us. This league is so competitive. Everyone can take points of each other. We can only worry about ourselves. But it’s all about Malin next for us.”
MacCumhaills: Eoin Gallen; Adam Lynch, Marty Gallagher, Gerard Grindle; Ronan McMenamin, Gary Dunnion, Gavin Gallagher (0-2); Pauric Patton, Stephen O’Reilly; Gary Wilson, Aaron Kelly, John Lynch; Stephen Mulligan (0-4,3f), Darren O’Leary (2-4,1f), Brian Lafferty (0-3).
Subs: Luke Gavigan for A Kelly (17), Benny McLaughlin for A Lynch (40), Conor Griffin for P Patton (40), Chad McSorley for S Mulligan (50).
Bundoran: Ashley Mulhern; Peter McGonagle, Diarmuid McCaughey, Matthew Duffy; Brian McHenry, Paul Murphy, Johnny Boyle (0-1) ; Shane McGowan (0-1), Ciaran McCaughey; Michael McEniff (1-2), Diarmuid Spratt, Niall Dunne; Tommy Hourihane (0-4,3f), Gary Clancy (0-3,1f), Chris Keane.
Subs: Cian McEniff for J Boyle (ht).
Referee: Robbie O’Donnell (Naomh Muire).