Monday, May 19, 2014

Pat O'Brien Cup Semi-Final: Connemara Gaels v Donegal

By Rory O'Donnell

Connemara Gaels 1-11 Donegal 1-13 (After Extra Time)

It was a tale of 2 halves between Donegal and Connemara Gaels in this compelling semi-final of the Pat O'Brien Cup.  Donegal looked full value for their 6 point lead at the break.  The Gaels stormed back into it in the second half, recording the first 5 points of the period and Donegal were reeling.  With the game winding down, and the Gael's holding a one point lead, Mark McNulty leveled matters and the game went into extra time.  Donegal had the extra bit in the tank for the 10 additional minutes and pulled out the win thanks to 2 late points, the insurance score coming from the boot of Gavin Clancy.

Donegal saw off the Gaels in Extra Time of a Thrilling Game.
Donegal held the upper hand for most of the first half.  The northerners established an early lead with points from McNulty at center forward, and Gary Clancy on the wing.  The Gaels looked to Ger Leech for their scoring outlet.  Leech tallied the first 3 of the Gaels scores.  As the half wore on, Donegal looked like they were gathering momentum.  Pauric McLaughlin was full of running in the forward line, while Dean Matthews looked like scoring when in possession.  Gavin Gallagher and Matthew Smith had the upper hand in the middle of the field, and though the Gaels hit several wides, the westerners were not really in the game.  Donegal struck a potentially fatal blow on the stroke of half time with a well worked goal right after Leech had just tallied the Gaels fourth point of the game.  At the half it was 1-7 to 0-4 in Donegal's favour.

Connemara Gaels put up a gallant display.
The Gaels stormed out of the gates after the restart and scored with the first 4 possessions.  Kevin Owens, Noel Graham, Tom McDonagh, and Coleman Conroy tallied scores to close the gap on Donegal.  The Gaels looked unstoppable in this early going.  Mossie Shanahan at corner back did tremendous work to assist his colleagues in the advanced positions.  Steven Murray finished a move in which Shanahan was the link man all the way down the field.  At this point Brian Joyce was coming into his own at center back, winning plenty of the loose ball and distributing it well.  Donegal got relief from the pressure with a Dean Matthews point.  With the Gaels still rampant, a penalty came after Kieran Cox was bundled over the box.  Sean Conneeley stepped up and made sure to propel the Gaels into a one point lead heading into the final 10 minutes.  However, it was backs to the wall for the Gaels for the final 10 minutes as the tank looked to be on dead empty, and Donegal started to shift up a gear down the stretch.  Points were traded by Matthews and Murray, Graham and McNulty, until McNulty took advantage of one of the games last chances and leveled.  Donegal had a "last kick of the game" chance to win, but Gary Clancy's free left a bit to spare and on we went to extra time. 

The game remained all square for most of extra time, the sides traded points and it was still anybody's until with 2 minutes to go.  Donegal tallied 2 points with Gavin Clancy putting the extra score between the teams to pull it out of the bag and the Tír Chonaill men advance to meet Kerry in the final.

Gaels:  E. Connolly, M. Shanahan, S. Conneeley, AJ Maguire, B. Joyce, K. Killeen, T. McDonagh, N. Graham, C. Conroy, C. Mulkerrins, S. Murray, K. Owens, G. Leech.  Donegal:  J. Byrne, C. McCarron, D. McBride, M. Dunphy, M. Canny, S. Doherty, G. Gallagher, M. Smyth, C. Bell, M. McNulty, G. Clancy, D. Matthews, P. McLaughlin.

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