Donegal 2-10 Aidan McAnespies 0-12
Donegal captured the Junior A football championship after a tightly contested final with Aidan McAnespies. Donegal netted twice in the game with a goal in each half, and the irony with both goals was they came at times when Donegal were down a man due to the black card sin bin. Darren Grant put in a tremendous performance in the middle of the field, and the forward line with Muiris Curtin at center forward and Ruairi Rafferty at corner forward were a constant threat. With the game on the line Donegal also got some great contributions from the players brought in from the line to see them through to the end.
Donegal Celebrate the Junior A Football Championship
There was a goal in it at the end of the first half. It came late in the half after Declan Scott was shown a black card for a pull down. McAnespies were looking to level the game, and with half time looming and the extra man to start the second half, things were looking in their favor. Donegal turned the tables, however, as Curtin netted after being found by Rafferty with a good strike to the corner of the net from about 21 yards. Donegal had a cushion they could use and weather the opening of the next period.
The half had opened with each side scoring a flurry of 3 points a-piece. Grant, Rafferty and Grant again for Donegal, and for the Macs it was Padraig Dillon, Aidan O’Malley, and Dillon again. While McAnespies then had a series of chances off the mark, Donegal made it a 3 point lead with Curtin putting 3 frees over the bar as fouls were punished. McAnespies started to make forays deep into Donegal territory with runs from midfield and were rewarded with scores from Mark Coughlan, Ciaran Wallace, and a Paddy O’Neill free. Then, with Donegal up by a 7 points to 6 score, the back card incident came and Donegal’s first half goal. McAnespies will have rued a chance that hit the crossbar, and Coughlan cleaned up with a point. 1-7 to 0-7 Donegal at the break.
Neither side waited too long to make changes. James Rigney and Daithi Higgins entered play McAnespies and for Donegal Darragh Lawlor and Brian Deasy came on and made contributions. Donegal held possession well to effectively kill the black card penalty, and holding the lead could afford to do so. A Rafferty free had Donegal up by a four, but McAnespies set about reining in their opponents and the game was level by the time the third quarter was played. Conan McCusker put a hard won point over the bar, and was followed by Dillon, center back Adam Doyle – who started and finished the move, and Coughlan. 15 minutes to go and all square.
As the teams struggled to get an upper hand, it looked like it would be McAnespies who had it after Liam McCray was shown a back card for his challenge, and this time it would result in McAnespies having the man advantage till time was up. Donegal were first to score afterwards though, though Ronan Gallagher with Lawler and Deasy also involved; all came on as subs. McAnespies then leveled with a pointed free from Paddy O’Neill. The game was in the balance again. Legs were getting tired and passes going astray, and it really was up for grabs at that point. Donegal went up again with a free from Grant after a call that was met with loud disapproval from the McAnespies supporters, but the deal was sealed almost straight afterwards when Deasy netted. It was another goal for Donegal when a player short due to a black card, and Deasy made no mistake from close range. Deasy was then on hand to block a shot as McAnespies tried to retrieve the situation, and with the final whistle it was the Donegal supporters celebrating a close earned win.
Donegal: Padraig McLaughlin, Paul McNulty, Mark Canny, Neil McEneaney, Declan McBride, Gavin Reilly, Ronan Gallagher, Darren Grant, Hugh Devine, Muiris Curtin, Liam McCray, Jack Droney, Ruairi Rafferty. Subs: Ronan Gallagher, Conall Darragh, Brian Deasy, Darragh Lawler, Conor Brennan.
Macs: Jack Lake, Ger Dillon, Darren Maher, Colm O’Malley, Adam Doyle, Conan McCusker, Niall Murphy, Mark Coughlan, Aidan O’Malley, Paddy O’Neill, Tom McKenna, Padraig Dillon, Ciaran Wallace. Subs: James Rigney, Keith Connell, Daithi Higgins, Sean Clifford.