By Charlie Collins
Naomh Conaill 2-08 v 1-10 Gowna (Cavan)
Two points down in the fourth minute of injury-time it looked as if Naomh Conaill’s Ulster campaign would be short lived again this year after they had let a four point half-time lead slip away against Gowna. But with the last play of the game Kevin McGettigan popped up to blast the ball to the Gowna net to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat and earn his team a semi-final spot.
After the disappointment of last year’s early defeat by Cargin on penalties in the Ulster Senior championship Donegal champions Naomh Conaill were keen to do better this time round but knew they would need a good performance against the Cavan champions of the last two years Gowna.
The opening ten minutes produced just two points, Oisín Pierson’s free for Gowna and Ordhan Doherty from play to equalize. Charles McGuinness won possession from the high ball in the 6th minute and his shot hit the post, a let off for Gowna. Ryan Donahue restored Gowna’s lead, Odhran Doherty replied with his second bit Conor Casey put Gowna ahead for the third time after 17 minutes, 0-03 to 0-02.
That didn’t last too long as A J Gallagher came forward to finish off a super move to kick an excellent point. Mark McKeever and Eunan Doherty exchanged points from play as play flowed from end to end, 0-04 apiece.
Brendan McDyer’s trusty left foot gave Naomh Conaill the lead for the first time in the twenty sixth minute and two missed frees from very scoreable positions didn’t help Gowna’s chances. And things got worse for the Cavan men just before half-time when goalkeeper Ronan Bannon failed to hold Brendan McDyer’s high dropping ball and when it dropped into the hands of Leo McLoone the veteran produced a classic lob effort over the keeper’s head into the net, a huge score in this tight contest and a four point half-time lead for Naomh Conaill, 1-05 to 0-04.
Cian Madden’s free opened the second-half scoring for a close-in free as Gowna came out showing intent after the break but Naomh Conaill, as they do, standing strong. In fact that was the only score in the opening twelve minutes but then a big moment as Conor Brady finished off an good move by drilling the ball to the net to level the game at 1-05 apiece and game on for the final quarter.
Naomh Conaill struggled for that opening period of the half and didn’t score until seventeen minutes into it , Jeaic MacCeallabhui tapping over to put them ahead again but very quickly Robbie Fitzpatrick pointed to level it up again, 1-06 apiece.
With the pressure mounting both teams were feeling it, Leo McLoone kicked a super point but Tiarnan Madden and Ryan Brady quickly replied and Gowna led by 1-08 to 1-07. Back came the Naomh Conaill men again and when Ciaran Thompson was fouled John O Malley pointed to level it yet again, 1-08 apiece.
Gowna lifted themselves yet again and points in quick succession from Conor Brady and Cian Madden put them two ahead and looking good for a last four spot. But that never-say-die attitude we have seen so often from Naomh Conaill came to the fore yet again with the last action of this game when having worked a close-in free Ciaran Thompson dropped the ball into the danger area and not the first time Kevin McGettigan pounced to hammer the ball into the roof of the net, 2-08 to 1-10, and victory for Naomh Conaill as the final whistle sounded.
They will now meet the reigning champions Glen from Derry in the semi-finals in two weeks time, the other semi-final will be between Trillick from Tyrone and Scotstown from Monaghan who beat Karl Lacey’s Kilcoo with a last kick of the match point from Rory Beggan.
Naomh Conaill: Stephen McGrath; Jason Campbell, AJ Gallagher (0-01), Ultan Doherty, Kevin McGettigan (1-00), Anthony Thompson, Ethan O’Donnell; Leo McLoone (1-01), Ciaran Thompson , Brendan McDyer (0-01) , Odhran Doherty (0-02), Eunan Doherty. (0-01), Jeaic Mac Ceallabhui (0-01), Charlie McGuinness, John O’Malley(0-01).
Subs: Eoin Waide for Campbell (50mins), Mark McDevitt for McDyer (55mins).