Gareth Concarr, Ardara, and David Mc Carron, Dungloe, in a tussle for possession on a very wet day in Fintra.
An heroic final quarter comeback from decimated Ardara was just not enough to overcome a physically superior Dungloe side in a tie played in horrible conditions in Killybegs.
Dungloe have preserved their senior status following this win while Ardara have one more chance to maintain their very long stay in senior championship football as they meet the winners of Malin and Four Masters in the final throw of the dice to stay up.
It was almost as wet as that infamous day of the Ulster final in 1993 as both sides tried to come to grips with dreadful conditions.
It looked like Dungloe had sealed this affair when they hit Ardara for two killer goals in the space of 20 seconds in the 40th minute.
Corner back Jason McBride finished a flowing move to the net to put the Gaeltacht men into a 2-6 to 0-5 lead after they led by 1-6 to 0-4 at the break.
But, it got even worse for Ardara 20 seconds later as Dungloe midfielder Hugh Moy punished a poor kick out from Ciaran Gildea by first timing the ball soccer style to the net.
Moy’s clinical strike put Dungloe into a 3-6 to 0-5 lead.
Three further points were added by Oisin Bonner and two superb points from the elegant and impressive Adam Neely to leave the winners ahead by 3-9 to 0-5 15 minutes from time.
But that was to be their last score of the match as Ardara’s stung pride propelled them into a mighty comeback that was just to fall short.
The revival began with veteran Gareth Concarr palming the ball to the net after a flowing Ardara move and he added a quick point in the 50th minute.
A previously beaten Ardara who were minus Conor Classon, Paddy McGrath, C J Molloy, Jack Brennan, Danny Walsh, Kenneth Doherty Niall McCrossan and Shane O’Donnell, dug deep and hit another goal from substitute Jack Sweeney who rifled the ball to the roof of the net from an acute angle to leave the winners leading by 3-9 to 2-7.
Ardara had serious momentum at this stage and Paul Watters added three points to leave just two points between the sides.
Dungloe were shaken but not unduly stirred even though they looked out on their feet as they hung on to ensure another season in the senior championship.
Dylan Sweeney opened the scoring for Dungloe and Watters equalized with a pointed free.
Neely was on target for Dungloe and then they won a penalty when Matthew Maher pulled down Dungloe full-forward in the square for a penalty-which Hugh Moy calmly dispatched.
That goal was the key score for the rest of the half as Watters and Neely swapped scores.
Dungloe keeper Danny Rodgers hit two great pointed frees in this half as the winners turned over with a lead of 1-6 to 0-4.
And it looked like they were cantering to an easy win when they led by 3-9 to 0-5 before that epic Ardara comeback.
DUNGLOE: Danny Rodgers (0-2, 2f); Jason McBride, Matthew Ward, Christy Greene; Gerard Walsh, Conor O’Donnell, Barry Curran; Darren Curran, Hugh Moy (1-0,pen); Daniel McCarron, Adam Neely (0-4), Dylan Sweeney (0-1); Mark Curran, Conor Greene, Oisin Bonner (0-2, 1f).
ARDARA: Ciaran Gildea; Oisin O’Donnell, Matthew Maher, Eoin Harkin; Joe Melly, Johnny Herron, John Ross Molloy; Brendan Boyle, Robbie Adair; Paul Watters (0-6, 5f), Kevin Whyte, Matthew Sweeney; Tomas Boyle, Gareth Concarr (1-4, 4f).
Subs: Johnny Sweeney for M Sweeney 40; Declan Gavigan for O O’Donnell half-time;
REFEREE: Greg McGroary (Four Masters).
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