Joy of six for Ernesiders

Senior Division 3
7 May 2016
Aodh Ruadh 2-11
Letterkenny Gaels 1-11
John Hughes reports from Father Tierney Park.

Peter Gallagher and James O'Donnell's men continued their faultless start to the season with a hard earned victory over a pugnacious Letterkenny Gaels side on a dirty, dirty night up on the Rock in Ballyshannon.

The rain tipped down all through and the biting cold was in stark contrast to the previous day's fine weather.

Aodh Ruadh were like greyhounds out of the traps in the first half, but it was to prove a close fought 30 minutes of incredible quality considering the awful conditions.

First blood went to the visitors when Shane Graham's 45 went short and Sean McDonagh got a flick on the ball to force Peter Boyle to produce brilliant reaction save to palm over.

David Dolan answered three minutes later, slotting over from a dead ball after play had been brought back for a foul. Sbortly after some neat interplay from the hosts was finished off with David Dolan clipping over his second point in as many minutes.

Then Eamon McGrath won Graham's kick out, the first long kick either side had chanced in the game, that was raced through the centre of the Gaels defence before David McGurrin slipped home a precise shot to get the green flag fluttering.

With just six minutes gone it got better again for Aodh Ruadh. Seamus Kane went on a driving run through on goal and finished with a unstoppable rasper to the top left corner. And in fairness the celebration matched the goal for flamboyance.

Before Aodh Ruadh got too carried away with themselves, Letterkenny brought the hosts back down to earth with a bump. A Gaels attack found the home defence under-manned and Conor McBrearty was able to flick across the face of goals to John Doran who collected before tapping into the empty net to make it a double scores game, 2-2 to 1-1.

Aodh Ruadh were still playing good stuff though and Philip Patton was on hand to convert after more fine build up play from the hosts.

However Letterkenny were beginning to find their feet and answered with two scores. First was Mark Hunter with a good effort from range, then Conor McBrearty guidced over the first of what was to prove to be a series close range frees for the number 14.

The best score of the half came as the game moved into the second quarter. Seamus Kane had a man hanging out of him, but that didn't stop him splitting the posts with a divine left foot effort to give Aodh Ruadh a four point advantage.

The Gaels set about erasing that over the next ten minutes in their best passage of play.

Conor McBrearty got the fightback going with an instant close range response to Kane's clinker. Mark Hunter and Paddy Doherty both rifled over before Paddy Doherty tied it up with a close range free to level it at 2-4 to 1-7 with five minutes to run to the break.

Aodh Ruadh finished the half the stronger though and made it count with two important scores.

A shot from Seamus Kane dropped short, but David Dolan collected and shot on the turn and was perhaps unlucky to see his shot flash over rather than under the bar as Ballyshannon reclaimed the lead.

Then a minute into injury time Eamonn McGrath drew his man and laid off to Johnny Gethins before shipping a heavy tackle. Gethins made McGrath's bravery worthwhile by clipping over to send the hosts in leading by two at the interval.

The first half had been played at a frenetic pace and with the downpour continuing unabated and the light ebbing it was asking a bit much for that standard to be sustained far into the second half.

But what it lacked in fireworks, it more than made up for in grit as the sides slugged it out in dogged fashion.

Aodh Ruadh got the opening score of the half two minutes in, a David Dolan free sneaking just inside the far upright to put a goal between the sides once more.

Six minutes later David McGurrin nursed over a superb score from a difficult position. Aodh Ruadh were back controlling matters again and there was a little frustration evident in the Letterkenny ranks, with Mark Hunter, already on a yellow, a lucky man to stay on the pitch after a tackle on Colm Kelly.

Another close in free from Conor McBrearty brought the visitors back within a score of the Ernesiders, but a timely three point spurt from hosts saw them edge into what looked like an unassailable lead with the conditions worsening by the minute.

The first of the trio came in the 45th minute. A Diarmaid McInerney shot hit the crossbar and arced high into the air before being gathered by David Dolan who pumped over.

Three minutes later a quick free from Michael 'Sticky' opened some space in the Gaels defence and David McGurrin took the opportunity gratefully.

McGurrin turned creator for the next score winning a free which Diarmaid McInerney slotted from in front of the posts to put two goals between them with nine minutes left to play.

At this stage both teams were clearly out on their feet. Aodh Ruadh visibly decided they had done enough and set about trying to see the game out.

Letterkenny mustered their strength and gave it their best shot in the last ten minutes. Their return was three successive Conor McBrearty frees which took the Gaels back to within a goal of Ballyshannon, but it transpired Aodh Ruadh had indeed done enough to secure their sixth successive victory in a winning start to their division three campaign.

It was a game which sorted the men from the boys. Fortunately Aodh Ruadh probably had slightly more of those characters on the night.

Callum O'Halloran was outstanding at corner back, while Michael Ward also made some telling interventions. Again the half back line distinguished itself, Johnny Gethins, Colm Kelly and Niall Harley getting through a heap of work. Seamus Kane took two class scores and was a great option all through. David Dolan continued his mightily impressive early season form with another heavy haul of points, while Sticky Ward was ever the calming influence, picking the right options.

For the visitors Mark Hunter was a an extremely dangerous force in attack, while Paddy Doherty was a robust presence about the middle.

Vital Statistics
Teams
Aodh Ruadh
Peter Boyle; Michael Ward, Damian Cleary, Calum O'Halloran; Johnny Gethins, Colm Kelly, Niall Harley; Eamonn McGrath, Kerry Ryan; David McGurrin, Seamus Kane, Diarmaid McInerney; David Dolan, Michael 'Sticky' Ward, Philip Patton.
Subs: Ryan McKenna for Philip Patton 17m; Jason Granaghan for Kerry Ryan 38m; Gary Carty for Ryan McKenna (inj) 57m; Ronan Drummond for Colm Kelly (BC) 59m.
Yellow cards: Diarmaid McInerney 24m; Seamus Kane 49m.
Wides: 5
Frees conceded: 18
Kickouts won: 13
Own: 8
Opposition: 5
Letterkenny Gaels
Shane Graham; Conor Coll, Ciaran Cannon, Kevin Kilkenny; Ciaran Lynch, Darren Hunter, Conor Brown; Brendan O'Brien, Paddy Doherty (0-2, 1f); Sean McDonagh, Mark Hunter (0-3), Shane McGlade; Cormac Cannon, Conor McBrearty (0-6, 5f), John Doran (1-0).
Yellow cards: Mark Hunter 20m; Conor Brown 31m; Cormac Cannon 42m; Shane McGlade 62m.
Wides: 6
Frees conceded: 12
Kickouts won: 9
Own: 8
Opposition: 1
Referee: Enda McFeeley
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Last modified: Wednesday, 18 May 2016 at 10:59pm