Ronan Frain of Letterkenny Gaels being chased by three Buncrana players in the Junior final
Buncrana are celebrating a second Donegal Junior A Championship title after today’s final win over a game Letterkenny Gaels, in a high quality final, in O’Donnell Park.
Buncrana …………. 2-12
There was just four points between the sides at the final whistle as Letterkenny Gaels - playing in their first adult final - gave the hotly fancied Buncrana a real run for their money.
The Letterkenny men led by four points, 2-4 to 1-3, at the end of an action packed first half and they still led by a point going into the final quarter
The title was still on a knife edge and was a drawn game on 60 minutes before Caolan McGonagle edged the champions ahead and Darach O’Connor - not fit to start due to a knee injury - sealed it with an injury time goal and point.
The game started at an electrifying pace. Buncrana laid siege on the Letterkenny Gaels posts and really pinned the maroon and whites back in their own half.
But a combination frantic defending and a super save from Shane Graham to deny Ryan McElhinney from five metres meant the Inishowen men had to wait until the fifth minute for their first flag.
Peter McLaughlin, in from the start for Darach O’Connor, kicked the Inishowen men’s opening point on five minutes.
But that was cancelled out almost immediately with a superb strike from Conor McBrearty in the Letterkenny men's first attack.
All of a sudden the Gaels dander was up and by the 10th minute they had raced into a 0-3 to 0-1 lead thanks to two McBrearty frees.
Adrian Doherty, who playing in a sweeping role, came up from the back to knock over Buncrana’s second on 11 minutes.
Then we had the first of the penalties when McBrearty’s kicking leg was caught by Bruce Waldron and referee Shane Toolan pointed to the spot.
McBrearty dusted himself down before blasting to the net for 1-3 to 0-2 lead with 14 minutes on the clock.
But once again the response was pretty swift and the margin was back to one after Caolan McGonagle drove through from midfield to send J P McKenna through on goal. And the cornerback held his nerve to cooly slot the ball past Shane Graham.
That was on 17 minutes and with McBrearty and Caolan McGonagle trading pointed frees, the clock had ticked into injury time when McBrearty tucked away the game’s second penalty with the last kick of the half for a 2-4 to 1-3 interval lead.
The penalty was awarded for a tug on Diarmaid O’Cathail in the large rectangle.
The second half began slowly and 12 minutes passed before John Campbell kicked the opening score of the second period.
But it was if the big number 14 lit a switch and thanks to further points from Campbell and substitutes Matthew Mulholland and Odhran Doherty, the rampant Inishowen men had drawn level by the three quarter mark.
McBrearty, from a placed ball, restored the Gaels’ advantage but Campbell again from a free tied it up once more before Adrian Doherty, nudged Buncrana ahead for the first time since the opening point.
That was on 49 minutes but they were all aboard again after Cormac Cannon landed a monster point on the stroke of time.
But in added time McGonagle edged the Inishowen men back in front and super sub Darach O’Connor sealed the issue with an injury time point and goal.
Buncrana won their one and only other Junior A championship in 1982 and interestingly referee Shane Toolan was a corner-forward on the winning team.
BUNCRANA: Harry Doherty; JP McKenna (1-0), Aedan Stokes, Conor Grant; William McLaughlin, Bruce Waldron, Jack O’Loughlin; Ryan McElhinney, Caolan McGonagle (0-3,3f); Oisin O’Flaherty, Peter McLaughlin (0-1), Ben Bradley; Oisin Doherty, John Campbell (0-3,2f), Adrian Doherty (0-2). Subs: Odhrán Doherty (0-1) for B Bradley 36, Matthew Mulholland (0-1) for A Stokes 41; Oisin Hegarty for P.McLaughlin 56;, Noel McLaughlin for O O’Flaherty 57, Darach O’Connor (1-1) for Oisin Doherty 62.
LETTERKENNY GAELS: Shane Graham; Darren Hunter, Ciaran Lynch, Sean McDonagh; Cormac Cannon (0-1), Brian Diver (0-1), Anthony Diver; Ciaran Cannon, Liam Doherty; Diarmaid Ó Cathail, Ronan Frian, Paddy Doherty; Shay Doherty, Conor McBrearty (2-6, 2-0 pen,5f), Brendan O’Brien. Subs: Ciaran Kilfeather for S.Doherty h/t, Conor Browne for C Lynch 32, Odhrán McMacken for L Doherty 38 inj
REFEREE: Shane Toolan (Aodh Ruadh).
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