Thompson on song to help Glenties keep dream alive
Ulster club SFC quarter-final: Naomh Conaill 1-11 Castlerahan 0-11
Having only won in Donegal on Wednesday night after a three-game epic with Gaoth Dobhair, Naomh Conaill manager Martin Regan admitted his side couldn't do much to prepare for this Ulster quarter-final clash with Castlerahan.
Wednesday and Thursday were given over to celebrations and, according to Regan, training on Friday night amounted to "little more than a warm-up."
It wasn't until the final frantic few minutes that the schedule began to show. Having led by seven points at one stage in the second half, Castlerahan had pulled themselves back to within two points.
And even after Gavin Daly saw red for the Cavan champions, they thundered at the Donegal champions. Out on their feet at this stage, Regan's men hung on grimly for the five minutes of injury-time.
"When they came back to three we were worried they were kicking high ball in and a goal could have came out of it or anything," Regan reflected. "We were hanging on big time but thank God we came out on the right side of things.
"It was difficult to prepare, we had a great night on Wednesday and a enjoyable day on Thursday. We worked hard over the last few months to win a county championship so we made sure we enjoyed it but Friday we started looking at Castlerahan.
"Look, time was against us, we hadn't as much work done as them and today we focused more on ourselves and what we could bring to the table. But we managed to get over the line."
This was their third game in seven days but there was little sign of that early on as the Donegal side ran up a 0-4 to no score lead after 15 minutes.
Cormac Daly, who would kick four points in an excellent display, opened Castlerahan's account but when Ciarán Thompson goaled to open up a six-point lead on 25 minutes, they looked to be in control.
However, Castlerahan kept in touch and tagged on the last three points of the half to go in trailing by just a goal (1-5 to 0-5) but they should have tallied much more in the opening half hour. Three goal chances came their way but they couldn't convert while they also tallied seven wides by the break.
Glenties hit the first two points after the break to reassert control and they looked able to keep the Cavan champions at arm's length. And when sub Dermot 'Brick' Molloy chipped over a point on 41 minutes, they led by seven.
However, fatigue started to kick in and Naomh Conaill would kick just one more point in the game when the excellent Anthony Thompson landed his third of the day with almost the last action of the game.
In between, Donal Keogan's side kicked five in a row to cut the gap to two. And even when Daly was given his marching orders when he clashed with the linesman in the act of retrieving the ball on the stroke of full-time, Castlerahan still came looking to salvage something before Thompson's break-out point settled it.
"I thought there was no intent in it, it was definitely a very, very harsh red card," Keogan said of the sending-off. "He was going for the ball. He did connect with the linesman but he never saw him. He was going for the (ball) full tilt, and in the process he connected with the linesman, but there was no intent. It was very disappointing.
"(The game) was there for us. A lot of chances. We had 40 attacks to their 27. We had a lot of issues from our own kick-out, I think we conceded 1-7 from it. It's a game that these lads will regret in years to come, they'll look back and say it got away."
Naomh Conaill survived and did enough to give watching Clontibret manager John McEntee plenty to think about.
"We'll need this week to recover, then next week we'll look at Clontibret." Regan said. "We are privileged to be in that position. Gaoth Dobhair set the bar last year and showed that Donegal teams could win Ulster and we'll give it a right rattle. And we knew if we got over today we wouldn't be too far away so we'll prepare and get the bodies right again."
SCORERS - Naomh Conaill: C Thompson 1-2 (1 '45, 1f); A Thompson 0-3; C McGuinness (1f), K Gallagher 0-2 each; B McDyer, D Molloy 0-1 each. Castlerahan: C Daly 0-4; K Cosgrave 0-3 (1f); S Cooney, R Flanagan, B Ennis, S Brady 0-1 each.
Naomh Conaill - S McGrath; U Doherty, AJ Gallagher, K McGettigan; E O'Donnell, A Thompson, E Waide; C Thompson, L McLoone; B McDyer, M Boyle, E Doherty; J McKelvey, C McGuinness, K Gallagher. Subs: D Molloy for McGuinness (37), S Molloy for Boyle (43), N Byrne for O'Donnell (49), J O'Malley for McDyer (52), H Gallagher for Waide (55), M Boyle for Gallagher (60).
Castlerahan - J Leahy; S Cooney, K McEnroe, E O'Connell; S O'Reilly, O Kiernan, F Reilly; P Smith, C Daly; K Cosgrave, B Ennis, P Smith; O O'Connell, R Flanagan, E Flanagan. Subs: C Mackey for O'Reilly (32), G Daly for K McEnroe (41), S Brady for Ennis (44), F Flanagan for Smith (52).
Ref - C Branagan (Down)