Aodh Ruadh do it at the death to take county title

Under 16 B football county semi-final
Aodh Ruadh 1-16
Red Hugh's 2-12
12 November 2017
MacCumhaill Park, Ballybofey

Aodh Ruadh pulled on the experience of a season to win their seventh, and most important, game on the bounce. The Ernesiders were a point down three minutes into added time, but Shane Gillespie first kicked the leveller before hitting the winner in the fifth minute of nine minutes added on.

The Killygordon men came into the game on the back of a five goal quarter-final victory over Naomh Columba and a nine point semi-final win over Glenswilly. They made that momentum count early with Ryan Bonner Coyle and Jack Bradley raiding for early points.

Ballyshannon settled and responded well, Eoin Doherty pointing from play and Shane Brady converting a free.

Caolan McClintock capitalised on space in the Aodh Ruadh defence to fire home the game's first goal on nine minutes, but again Aodh Ruadh's reponse was composed and controlled. Shane Brady landed his second free and then Eoin Doherty posted from play as the game headed into the second quarter.

Eight minutes then elapsed before the next score. In a two minute sequence of play from the 22nd minute to the 24th Aodh Ruadh hit the front. First Shane Gillespie fired over from play, a score quickly followed by Shane Brady's hattrick free. Then from the kick out Aodh Ruadh won possession and Shane Gillespie drove through. He had Harry Howarth riding shotgun and the wing forward took the pass before drilling home a clinker of a goal to fire Ballyshannon into a two point lead.

This time it was Red Hugh's turn to show what they were made of and they pressed on in the last few minutes of the half to force three frees which were all well converted, Jack Gillespie and Jack Bradley (2) the men obliging for the Páirc Aodh Rua side.

So at half-time it was Aodh Ruadh 1-6 Red Hugh's 1-7 with all to play for.

The Ernesiders came out with a real sense of purpose in that second half and held Red Hugh's scoreless over the third quarter. Aaron Neilan, a second half sub at corner back, came out of nowhere to pop the first point of the second half. Eoin Doherty immediately added the lead point for Aodh Ruadh. Five minutes later Doherty converted a cracking free before Senan Rooney got a richly deserved point. Eoin Doherty and Cian Rooney fired over points from play to make it 1-12 to 1-7 with 44 minutes played.

Red Hugh's then dug deep into their reserves and showed real character over the last 25 minutes of football, as Leo Devenney was to play nine added minutes of extra time.

The Killygordon men struck for 1-3 in a four minute spell to retake the lead with nine minutes left to play. They got on the way with a Caolan McClintock free. Despite some heroics in the Aodh Ruadh defence there was no denying the next score, Jack Gillepie's goal bound shot deflected over the bar. Direct running from Gillepie created the next chance and the impressive centre forward made no mistake with a powerful shot to level it up at 1-12 to 2-9.

Ten minutes left to play now and there was still nothing separating the sides.

Ryan Bonner Coyle edged the Crossroads men back in front a minute after the goal, but Aodh Ruadh were alert after a Cian Rooney free came off the post and Eoin Doherty showed great composure to level things again.

Jack Gillespie edged his side back in front with a free three minutes from time. But as the clock ticked into added time Aaron Neilan showed great bravery to win a free and Eoin Doherty squared it up again.

There were 63 minutes on the clock when Jack Gillespie sent over a free which looked like it might seal the deal for Red Hugh's.

Cometh the hour though, and cometh the man. Aodh Ruadh captain Shane Gillepsie stood up to the mark. He profited from great harrying by Eugene Doherty and calmly measured over the level point with the stand at MacCumhaill Park fairly rocking with the drama of it all.

The final score came from a virtue Aodh Ruadh had worked on all year, turning over the opposition kick out. Senan Rooney grabbed possession and fed Shane Gillespie. Once again the captain took his time before slipping over a cleanly struck shot to send the Aodh Ruadh support into raptures.

The final minutes again saw Aodh Ruadh apply hard won lessons, holding possession and playing patient football until finally, after 71 hard fought ding dong minutes Leo Devenney sounded the long whistle to see Aodh Ruadh crowned county B champions.

An exceptionally hard fought win for the Ernesiders and it was hard not to feel for a Red Hugh's side who gave it their absolute all in what was a magnificent advertisement for the game.

Fittingly, it was Shane Gillespie who gathered the trophy for Aodh Ruadh following a majestic midfield performance alongside the tireless Senan Rooney. That said, there wasn't a corner of MacCumhaill park where there wasn't a hero in this massively intense game of football.

Matt Gillespie going through the pain barrier for much of the second half and still sticking his kick out. Kyle Murray proving on the biggest stage just what an exciting prospect he is. Adam Clarke making a battle of every ball that went into the Aodh Ruadh rearguard. Nathan Owens Kelly taking care of business in the corner. Tiernan Flood Dolan giving everything for the cause, just as he has all year, a class act. Eugene Doherty inflicting the most spectacular exhibition of half back play MacCumhaill Park has seen in some time. David 'The Catch' Doherty, the greatest warrior on the team. Odhran McGarrigle rising to the challenge in terrific fashion, using possession smartly. Mark McGlynn putting the body on the line all over the park and hungry for the battle. Harry Howarth, what a goal. Cian Barden a constant menace in the Red Hugh's defence. Shane Brady calming everything down with his cool free taking. Eoin Doherty, what is there to say, if he could have given a kidney to get Aodh Ruadh the win he would have done it. Game of his life.

Then Cian Rooney and Aaron Neilan come on, each putting the ball over bar in a game where there was only the narrowest of margins between the teams. The bench quite literally won Aodh Ruadh this game. Later Marty McGarrigle and Ryan Keenaghan came on to a pitch populated with physically larger lads, but didn't let that deter them one iota. They got stuck into the exchanges with determination and a manliness which belied their age and physique.

We can't forget the lads who played their part along the way, but who didn't get on the pitch on the day. Niall Monaghan, one of the steadiest, honest and most committed men on the team, he was unfortunate to miss out on a starting place. Frankie McGinley who will forever be remembered for carrying Senan Rooney on his back in Dunkineely against Naomh Muire. Jack McCaffrey whose return to the squad later in the season helped add bite to training sessions and who will hopefully feature more strongly next year, as he certainly has the potential to do so. Colm McGloin likewise showed well in training and will be a big part of the under 16s in 2018. Finally a thought for JJ Goan, as committed a lad as you could get, a tenacious and stylish defender, his loss was felt in the semi-final and final as he was ruled out following surgery.

Every man who takes to the field across a season plays their part in the ultimate outcome and in this case happily, it was a seven game unbeaten championship run which brought two pieces of championship silverware back to Ballyshannon. All players can take huge pride in what they have achieved this year and the memories they have made together.

Vital Statistics
Teams
Aodh Ruadh
Matt Gillespie; Kyle Murray, Adam Clarke, Nathan Owens-Kelly; Tiernan Flood-Dolan, Eugene Doherty, David Doherty; Senan Rooney (0-1), Shane Gillespie (0-3); Odhran McGarrigle, Mark McGlynn, Harry Howarth (1-0); Cian Barden, Eoin Doherty (0-7, 1f), Shane Brady (0-3f).
Subs: Aaron Neilan (0-1), Cian Rooney (0-1), Marty McGarrigle, Ryan Keenaghan.
Red Hugh's
James Doherty; Luke Browne, Oisin McGlinchey, Gareth McGill; Adam Sweeney, Aaron McGlinchey, Tiernan Kelly (0-1); Darragh McMenamin, Cian Gallagher; Cody Laverty, Jack Gillespie (1-4, 3f), Jack Bradley (0-3, 2f); Caolan McClintock (1-2, 1f), Ryan Bonner Coyle (0-2), Kieran Neeson.
Sub: Ruairi McLaughlin for McGill.
Referee: Leo Devenney (Naomh Colmcille)
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Last modified: Tuesday, 14 November 2017 at 1:43am