Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Senior Football Final: Donegal v Wolfe Tones

Wolfe Tones 1-9 Donegal 1-10 (After Extra Time)

Donegal and Wolfe Tones produced another game that went down to the wire, this time it was Donegal who pulled off a tremendous victory, and it required extra time to do it.  The Tones led by two points coming into injury time, yet Donegal managed to force extra time with 2 quick points.  In the extra time period the Tones enjoyed a two man advantage in personnel but could not overcome the one point advantage that Donegal held.  Donegal got their 10 outfielders behind the ball when the Tones were in possession, and chased down the field when they won it back.  The Tones had a chance to force a replay, however, a last minute Neil Flynn free, from a difficult angle and about 45 yards out, drifted wide of the posts and with the final whistle it was time for Donegal to celebrate their first Boston Championship since 2010.

The Victorious Donegal Senior Team.
The first half was filled with off the ball episodes and the football never had a chance to get going.  Referee Pat Casey spent time consulting with umpires and linesmen, several yellow cards were issued to players from both sides, and the only player who had to leave the field was Sean George for a black card offence, Donal Nugent replaced the Ballymun kickhams man.  Scoring was at a premium as was any semblance of good football, there were a total of 5 scores the pick of which was a sublime goal from the outside of Ciaran Hurley’s boot into the far corner of the net – probably one of best Canton has seen in many years.  Hurley had gotten outside his man to the end line and from a tight angle the Edenderry man chipped the ball over Mickey Boyle’s head and it floated for what seemed an eternity before dropping into the far corner of the net.

Donegal had a goal and a point to their credit at that point, Jason Whelan involved in both scores.  Whelan had pointed, and shortly afterwards found his partner at the other corner, Lorcan Connor who blasted the ball into the net.  Charles McCarthy accounted for the Tones other score, a solo effort from distance and Whelan a second point for Donegal.  There were several Donegal misses, one in particular after Whelan had got behind the defence and with the keeper to beat, the shot skidded just wide of the far post.  1-2 to 1-1 for Donegal at the half, and still the game yet to really take off.

It was all square with 15 minutes to go.  The focus was more on football now, and there were well taken scores on each side.  Nugent and Conor Moynagh put the Tones into a one point lead, before Mulligan put a smooth finish between the sticks to square it again.  Neil Flynn, who just entered the fray, and Mulligan traded points, it was 1-4 each with 15 minutes to go.  Play was moving up and down the field now with each side trying to gain the upper hand.  After Neil Flynn pointed a dead ball from an incredibly difficult angle, Mal McDermott, another player who entered from the line, fielded the kickout and Nicky Kelly pointed the chance - the subs were having a big influence on the game.

The Tones opened a two point lead with the game going into injury time, Flynn and Conor McCormack with the points, it looked like the Tones had the championship in their grasp.  Donegal managed to force extra time, though could have stolen the game.  Donegal broke downfield as the Tones coughed up the ball while trying to maintain possession in their own half.  Darren McDonnell pulled off a fine save to keep the ball out of the net, and deny Donegal a last minute victory.  Surely it would be the moment that captured the Tones first championship.  Not so as Donegal kept themselves alive. Mal McDermott pointed the 45, and the kickout broke to Emlyn Mulligan who earned his keep with a very well taken point from a good distance out and the championship on the line, and quite incredibly sent the game to extra time.
There was a lot of emotion as Nuala Mulvihill
presented the Pat Mulvihill Cup to Donegal.
The first period of extra time ended with Donegal ahead by a point.  Nicky Kelly was thrown down in the penalty area and the ensuing penalty kick from Mulligan was put over the bar with force, the Leitrim man went for power and got under the ball.  Kelly and Mulligan added one more each to the tally before Marty Farrell and Nugent pulled the Tones within a point.  Just before the mid-way point Gavin Gallagher was shown a red card for a challenge on Neil Flynn.  The second period of extra time saw Donegal lose another player, Matt Smyth to a red card after pulling down Conor McCormack.  The Tones had 10 minutes and 2 extra men to pull out a score, or two. 

Donegal dug deep into their reserves to see out the game to the final whistle, chasing back to get behind the ball, and forward as needed.  Needing a score to at least force a replay, the Tones failed to capitalize on the extra personnel as, with players exhausted, the attack did not have the support required when in possession – shades of Galway 1983.  There was a chance to level the scores in injury time as the Tones won a free about 45 yards out, however, Neil Flynn’s effort was a little wide of the posts.  Donegal delight at the final whistle, and heartbreak for the Tones.  It will be another crack at the North American senior football title in Chicago for the men from Tir Chonaill and Malin.

On a separate note, best wishes to Marty Farrell and family who will be starting anew in Chicago.  It was a pleasure to watch one of the best home based players in town for these past eight years. 

Tones:  D. McDonnell, E. Powderley, P. Faulkner, C. McCormac, S. George, C. Moynagh, C. McCarthy, D. Hyland, M. O’Brien, G. Brilly, C. Hurley, T. O’Connor, M. Farrell.  Donegal:  M. Boyle, J. Noctor, C. Burke, T. McCleneghan, M. Smyth, D. Green, R. Kavanagh, B. Donnelly, P. McAteeer, E.Mulligan, G. Gallagher, J. Whelan, L. Connor.

By Rory O'Donnell

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