MacNiallais sparkles in Gaoth Dobhair triumph
Gaoth Dobhair 0-17 Naomh Conaill 1-7 (Donegal SFC final)
From his sitting room window in Magheragallon, as a youngster, Odhrán MacNiallais used to gaze out to the Atlantic with the last spot on the horizon being that of his local GAA club - Gaoth Dobhair.
It's a rugged scene, with the waves battering in on one side and the shadows of Mount Errigal on the other, it's where MacNiallais formed his dreams. Yesterday, those dreams became a reality as, in a man-of-the-match display, the Donegal forward kicked eight points to help his side overcame Naomh Conaill of Glenties and seal a first Donegal SFC crown since 2006.
"It means the world to me," he said. "This is why I used to kick the ball against the house and it's something I've always dreamed of. County titles are hard to win. You only get one shot and you have to have form every day you go out. Winning man of the match means nothing, so long as we were lifting that trophy."
At the break, MacNiallais had managed three points, as Gaoth Dobhair went in 0-8 to 0-6 in front. It had been an interesting affair, without so much as a wide posted by either team until the 25th minute.
Kevin Cassidy, Eamon Collum, Daire Ó Baoill and Cian Mulligan all chipped in with supplementary scores to those of MacNiallais.
Naomh Conaill were reliant on the fine place-kicking of Ciarán Thompson and, even though Leo McLoone shipped hits throughout, would've been satisfied with just a two-point half-time deficit.
The match was effectively won in the championship quarter as they call it - the third. Naomh Conaill couldn't buy a score - not managing one until John O'Malley pointed in the 54th minute. They lost Marty Boyle to a black card that was added to a previous yellow, even though his sparring partner in the second incident, Eamon McGee, escaped unpunished.
MacNiallais sat deep and when the kick-outs of Gaoth Dobhair goalkeeper Christopher Sweeney invariably bypassed a cluttered midfield, he lived off the loose change and added five more points to his haul.
Naomh Conaill did manage to bundle in a goal in the fourth of seven minutes of injury-time, when Thompson got the final touch in a crowded square to reduce the arrears to four.
Their deficit, though, was too much. Gaoth Dobhair picked them off at will late on and that was enough to claim a long overdue victory for the Gaeltacht club. Dreams do come true.
Scorers - Gaoth Dobhair: O MacNiallais 0-8 (6f), C Mulligan 0-3, D Ó Baoill, E Collum (2f), K Cassidy 0-2 each. Naomh Conaill: C Thompson 1-2 (2f), E O'Donnell, L McLoone (1f), D Molloy (1f), B McDyer, J O'Malley 0-1 each.
Gaoth Dobhair - C Sweeney; G McFadden, N McGee, C McFadden; N Friel, E McGee, D Ó Baoill; K Gillespie, O MacNiallais; O McFadden-Ferry, C Mulligan, M Carroll; E Collum, K Cassidy, N Ó Baoill. Subs: D McBride for Carroll (60), S Ferry for Collum (60+4).
Naomh Conaill - S McGrath; K McGettigan, AJ Gallagher, J Campbell; E Waide, Anthony Thompson, U Doherty; L McLoone, C Thompson; M Boyle, E O'Donnell, E Doherty; D Molloy, K Gallagher, B McDyer. Subs: E McGettigan for Molloy (39), Aaron Thompson and J O'Malley for O'Donnell and U Doherty (53), S Corcoran for E Doherty (57).
Ref - S McLaughlin (Malin)