Michael O’Connor and Dougie Corbett started their reign in Fanad, giving competitive debuts to youngsters Paul O’Connor, Brian ‘Barney’ McBride and Conor McGonigle.
Cloughaneely travelled without the services of Kevin Mulhern, Darren McGeever and Denis Boyle, all prominent players within the Cloughaneely camp.
It was a glorious day in Fanad, however, as is with Tri A Loch, a testing breeze blew across the pitch.
The pitch offered no bounce which the Cloughaneely forwards would soon find out.
Fanad started off promisingly, and despite playing against the breeze, dominated possession.
However, they only had one score to show for their efforts, a Brian McVeigh effort from outside the 21.
Cloughaneely then took control and hit two points, one from Declan McGarvey from a placed ball, the other off the foot of Sean Maguire.
Fanad then put two points on the board through a Nanny Friel free and a fine effort from McVeigh after a lung bursting run.
Cloughaneely were punished three times in the first half for picking the ball off the ground, testament to the dead bounce on the pitch.
They did equalise through a John Fitzgerald free, and it was to be their last score of the half.
Paddy Heraghty was black carded for the homeside, it was an unfortunate black card as Paddy seemed to get tangled with Cillian Gallagher as he made the tackle, however there were no complaints from Paddy.
On came veteran Cathal Martin to steady the ship. Jimmy Coyle and Kevin McElwaine were nullifying the threat of Ciaran Scanlon and Shaun Maguire from midfield, and Fanad were playing a strong running game.
This was evident with their next two scores, first, Michael Sweeney was fouled as he bore down on goal, Nanny Friel pointed the resulting free, and in a similar move, Mark ‘Sparky’ Friel was deliberately fouled as he was rounded the keeper, the result being a penalty and a black card to the Cloughaneely keeper Sean McCafferty.
On came Ciaran Mór Gallagher to replace him, and his first task was to pick the ball from the net as Nanny Friel clinically dispatched the penalty.
Half time score: Fanad Gaels 1-04 – 0-03 Cloughaneely.
Fanad started the second half strongest, Ryan McGonigle featuring strongly, and a fine ball inside to Marty McAteer was finished off his weaker left foot for the first score of the second half.
Credit to Cloughaneely, and especially to John McGarvey, who stormed through two challenges to find himself one- on-one with Paul O’Connor.
McGarvey’s initial shot was saved by O’Connor, but the deflection cruelly bounced off Fanad captain Fergal Friel and into the net.
This left the score 1-05 to 1-03 in Fanad’s favour, but Fanad were in no mood to let their opponents back into the game.
With the next attack, they hit a goal, an excellent ball from Seimi ‘Coshia’ Friel, who entered the fray just before half time, found his namesake Seami Nanny, who turned the sticky Martin Ferry and finished superbly.
Michael Sweeney then got his name on the scoresheet from a tricky angle after superb hardwork from Jonny Friel.
With the next kickout, Jonny Friel broke the ball straight to Seami Coshia Friel, who in turn found Michael Sweeney.
A ball over the top found Brian McVeigh in acres of space and he drove the ball high to the roof off the Cloughaneely net for a fantastic worked team goal.
This left the score 3-06 to 1-03 for Fanad. Some ill-disciplined tackling from Fanad meant Cloughaneely hit three points in a row, John McGarvey (0-2f) and John Fitzgerald (0-1f) the contributors.
Scores from Seami Nanny (a monster free from all of 45 yards near the touchline) and Brian McVeigh meant the cushion was pushed out to 8 points.
Martin McGuire (Cloughaneely) was red carded for verbals directed at the referee, this didn’t phase the Falcarragh men and they did strike a goal through Cillian Gallagher with 5 minutes remaining to leave it a 5 point game, however Coshia Friel put the game to bed with a great point off his left boot.
John Fitzgerald ended the scoring with a free with only a minute remaining. Overall Fanad will be happy with the result.
McGonigle and McBride kept Fitzgerald and McGarvey scoreless from play, which is a fantastic which is a fantastic achievement given the free scoring both the Cloughaneely men demonstrated in our Intermediate semi-final in 2014.
Jimmy Coyle and Ryan McGonigle carried the ball well, and the wing half forward combination of the Friel brothers, Jonny and Mark, covered every blade of grass on the pitch. The firepower of McVeigh and Nanny Friel was the difference in the end.
Next competitive game for the Gaels is Killybegs away on Easter Monday.