NAOMH Conaill needed the nerves of a dramatic – and historic – penalty shoot out to stave off Kilcar and win the 2020 Donegal SFC title in Ballybofey.
Naomh Conaill 2-7 Kilcar 0-13 (after extra time, Naomh Conaill win 4-2 on pens)
By Chris McNulty at Sean MacCumhaill Park. Pictures by Evan Logan
It had just gone twenty minutes past ten – two hours and 20 minutes after the game threw-in when Ciaran Thompson, the Naomh Conaill captain, slammed home the winning penalty.
Since they waited since last September for this game, it seemed oddly apt that it would go all the way to a historic shoot-out – the first time ever the Donegal SFC final was decided on spot kicks.
Goalkeeper Stephen McGrath saved from Ryan McHugh and Mark McHugh to leave Thompson to convert the winner. Charles McGuinness, John O’Malley and Dermot Molloy hit the net for Naomh Conaill, for whom Brendan McDyer was wide.
Patrick McBrearty, whose fine night had taken Kilcar to the brink of glory, and Matthew McClean scored for Kilcar, but it was Martin Regan’s men prevailed.
It was a night of high drama under the glow of the lights by the Finn.
Kevin McGettigan’s 57th minute goal moved Naomh Conaill three in front; surely, they thought, enough.
From a long ball into the mix, Charles McGuinness’ effort was blocked into the path of the inrushing McGettigan, who crashed home.
That looked set to secure the Dr Maguire, but there was to be further drama and McBrearty tucked over a free – his seventh of the game – to force extra time.
There was some controversy at the conclusion, though, with the whistle blown a minute and a half before the allotted four minutes of added time were played.
Thompson’s gorgeous point from the stand side, four minutes into extra time, tipped the scales ever so slightly in Naomh Conaill’s favour.
So fine were the margins, you could have barely slid a cigarette paper between them and McBrearty sent the night to penalties.
Thompson’s 21st minute penalty gave Naomh Conaill an edge in the first half of normal time. Charles McGuinness was fouled by Mark McHugh in the square and Thompson emphatically drilled to the Town End net.
McBrearty was in the mood and a double from the Donegal ace narrowed the deficit with Ryan McHugh clipping over a leveller just before the break.
Just 500 – including 225 lucky supporters of each side – were inside Sean MacCumhaill Park when Mark Dorrian threw the ball in for this strangest of county finals.
Originally slated for last September, Covid-enforced delays meant it was on the back burner. Remember there were those who were aghast when Easter was mooted as a possibility.
Thompson kicked three points to ensure parity when they split for the first water break. They were 0-3 apiece with Patrick McBrearty having boomed Kilcar in front for a third time just moments previously.
Naomh Conaill attempted to unsettle Kilcar with a couple of early Hail Marys in the direction of Kieran Gallagher, but Kilcar managed to snuff the danger out.
While the reaction of an animated McNulty and his number two, the former Tyrone corner-back Aidan McCarron, on the sideline said it all. However, another long ball in the 20th minute ended with McGuinness going to ground and a penalty awarded.
Thompson’s early trio of scores included a ’45, a free and a point from play. The midfielder added a penalty to his list as he slammed past Kevin Campbell, the Kilcar goalkeeper.
A timely brace from McBrearty kept Kilcar’s tails up and Ryan McHugh dispossessed Ethan O’Donnell to draw the Towney men level, 0-6 to 1-3, at the changeover.
Half-time Naomh Conaill 1-03 Kilcar 0-6
Long-term injury victims Aodhán McGinley and Brian O’Donnell were absent from Kilcar’s roster, though John McNulty selected 14 of the 15 who beat Gaoth Dobhair in the semi-final last September.
McBrearty swung over a free to inch them in front again three minutes into the second half, but McGuinness reached onto another dropping ball from Thompson to bat over – just – the crossbar.
Naomh Conaill, defending champions since beating Gaoth Dobhair over a three-game epic in October 2019, were without Eoghan McGettigan. The Donegal panelist suffered a serious knee injury in training nine evening ago. The absence of the young forward, who was said to have been ‘flying’ since return to the club in recent weeks, was certainly felt.
After McBrearty evened the sums for a sixth time, Naomh Conaill might have goaled again, but he was unable to hit the target when he connected with Eoin Waide’s delivery.
McGettigan struck gold with three minutes of normal time to play, but Kilcar just wouldn’t go away – and McBrearty ensured the patrons got another 20 minutes for their money. They got more still than they bargained for as Naomh Conaill held sway and toast another night of glory,
In just four weeks’ time, the 2021 version begins.
The shortest of reigns as champions after the longest of championships.
Naomh Conaill: Stephen McGrath; Ultan Doherty, AJ Gallagher, Kevin McGettigan (1-1); Ethan O’Donnell, Anthony Thompson, Eoin Waide; Leo McLoone, Ciaran Thompson (1-5, 1-0pen, 2f, 1 ’45); Eunan Doherty, Odhran Doherty, Ciaran Brennan; Jeaic MacCeallabhuí, Charles McGuinness (0-1), Kieran Gallagher. Subs: Brendan McDyer for Brennan (38), Seamus Corcoran for U.Doherty (48), Dermot Molloy for K.Gallagher (53), Keelan McGill for O’Donnell (57), Jason Campbell for AJ Gallagher (61), Nathan Byrne for McGuinness (61), John O’Malley for O.Doherty (65), Kieran Gallagher for Waide (65), Marty Boyle for Corcoran (80), Charles McGuinness for C.Thompson (80).
Kilcar: Kevin Campbell; Barry Shovlin, Pauric Carr, Barry McGinley; Ryan McShane, Ryan McHugh (0-1), Andrew McClean; Eoin McHugh (0-1), Ciaran McGinley; Conor Doherty, Matthew McClean (0-1m), Stephen McBrearty; Mark McHugh (0-1f), Patrick McBrearty (0-8, 5f), Oran Doogan. Subs: Ryan O’Donnell for Doogan (46), Cormac Cannon for B.McGinley (50), Darragh O’Donnell for M.McClean (55), Conor McShane for A.McClean (60), Michael Hegarty for R.O’Donnell (71), Jason Campbell for C.McGinley (74), Matthew McClean for Cannon (77).
Referee: Mark Dorrian (Gaeil Fhánada)Tags: