Sunday, May 13, 2018

Donegal and McAnespies into the Pat O’Brien Cup Final

By Rory O’Donnell 
Donegal and McAnespies into the Pat O’Brien Cup Final

Shannon Blues 2-7 Aidan McAnespies 3-10

A win for Aidan McAnespies put them on top of Group B and into the final of the cup next Saturday.  It was an explosive affair, and the wet conditions did not help matters in that regard.  There was plenty of good football on display from both sides, however, it was McAnespies who produced the goods when there was a point in it coming into the last 10 minutes.

The first half was dominated by the Macs and two early goals put them in the driver’s seat.  Phil McCusker and a Robbie Croft penalty was the difference between the teams about half way through the opening period.  Although the Blues had their chance from the spot early on, they struggled to get any kind of momentum going as McAnespies dominated midfield and held the half back line.  Derek O”Brien was busy in the Blues full back line marshalling Che O’Donnell, however, eventually O’Donnell got an opening and netted a third goal for McAnespies to put them 3 -2 to 0-2 ahead with half time approaching.  The Blues got a second chance for a penalty after James Feeney was fouled in the penalty area, and this time the spot kick bustled the back of the net. 

The teams started the second half down a player each following sendings off at the end of the first half, and the Blues went on a run to reduce the deficit.  A seven point gap was bridged following unanswered scores from David Wallace (Goal) and a series of points from Maurice Young and Denis McElligott.  The Blues had the momentum, and a grandstand finish looked to be on the cards but things degenerated into a series of scuffles and rucks.  The result was 2 additional players off from each side, and by the time the teams for the following game appeared from the changing rooms, it was a 10-a-side affair on the field.  Robbie Croft was on fire in the final stretch with 6 points in a row from play and frees, one was an excellent strike from the sideline.  Cup holders, McAnespies end up with 2 wins in the group and will play Saturday next in the final in defence of the title.

Donegal 2-5 Wolfe Tones 1-8 

Donegal made it to next week’s final with a surprising draw against the Wolfe Tones.  The result meant that Donegal ended Group A with 4 points to 3 for the Tones.  Tones never got going in the forward line as Donegal kept it tight at the back and allowed hardly any space to their opponents.  With the conditions not conducive to handling or speed the Tones huffed and puffed, but never got to blow Donegal’s house down as they did the Gaels last week.  Christy McLaughlin hit with a goal in each half, and Gavin Riley also popped over several scores to aid Donegal’s effort.

At the break it was a Donegal lead, 1-3 to 0-4.  The Tones started the game a man short, and eventually Shane O’Brien arrived to even up the sides.   Sean Donnelly and Ronan Diver added points to the Donegal column, while for the Tones it was Gavin Walsh, Dean Curran and Thomas Beckett.  The second half saw a dogged Donegal keep the Tones forward line at bay.  Conor Brennan and Michael McBride dug in hard, and with numbers back for Donegal the frustration was evident with their opponents as there were no openings going forward.  Lateral balls ended up going nowhere, and Donegal then took advantage of their chances after possession was turned over.  McLaughlin netted his second with a great run along the endline, firing the ball into the far corner.  Riley added two points and there was a surprise on the cards.  Eventually the Tones made the breakthrough as they trailed by four points.  Cormac Joyce-Power literally had to power his way past the Donegal defenders to get some space to fire home.  Another point evened up the scores, but there would not be another chance for a winner, and with the draw it is Donegal who face Aidan McAnespies in the final next week.

Next Saturday there is a hurling blitz at the ICC and the Pat O’Brien Cup Final.  Times are TBD.

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