GAA Football

St Eunan's go goal crazy against Gaels to reach Ulster minor final

St Eunan's Darragh McWalters gets away from Enniskillen Gaels' Timmy Boyd during Sunday's Ulster minor semi-final at St Paul's
Picture by Seamus Loughran 
Tony McGee at St Paul's, Belfast

Kukri Sports Ulster Club Minor Football Tournament semi-final:
St Eunan’s, Letterkenny (Donegal) 4-11 Enniskillen Gaels (Fermanagh) 0-8

THE scoreline tells the story of this semi-final. The gap between the teams was just as wide as the 15-point winning margin for St Eunan’s would suggest.

The Donegal champions buckled down to the task from the throw-in and, despite losing influential midfield man Rory Carr after only 20 minutes, were never in trouble. The Gaels’ marking was slack and the winners got plenty of room to launch attacks throughout the game.

Carr suffered a severe shoulder injury, which necessitated him going to hospital. By that stage, he had already notched a goal and two points, the goal slotted in despite close attention from a couple of opponents. Kevin Grant went to midfield and carried on from where Carr had left off.

That goal by Carr left St Eunan’s 1-4 to 0-2 ahead and they motored on from there, without ever being in danger of losing their grip on the game. Star man Niall O’Donnell on the ‘40’ covered acres of ground from wing to wing and his running at the opposing defence had the Gaels in trouble. He finished with a game-high 2-4 but his prompting led to many more scores by his colleagues.

Minutes after Carr’s departure from the action, the ball was in the Enniskillen net again. Ciarán Maloney raced in from the left to fist the ball home from a handpass across the goalmouth by O’Donnell and, before the interval, Oisin O’Boyle and O’Donnell (free) added further points. Conor Goodwin closed the opening half with a Gaels point for a St Eunan’s lead of 2-6 to 0-3.

Gaels stormed back from 11 points down at half-time to defeat Antrim champions St Enda’s in the previous round but, despite a point in the opening minute of the second-half, there never looked a possibility the Fermanagh champions would repeat that performance. A point by O’Donnell was followed by a goal from the same player to leave the winners 3-7 to 0-4 ahead just four minutes after the restart and the writing was on the wall for the Gaels.

Three points inside the 46th and 47th minutes opened the gap wider and, when the superb O’Donnell raced through from about 50 metres practically unchallenged to rifle the ball to the Enniskillen net for a fourth Donegal goal, the game was beyond redemption at 4-10 to 0-4.

The losers did keep battling away and put in a spirited rally in the closing stages that yielded four points to one for St Eunan’s, but that was far too little too late. They will meet Crossmaglen Rangers in the in the final on New Year’s Day.

“The scoreline may do Enniskillen a little injustice as they began well, but our boys didn’t panic and we knew that, once we got the ball to our forwards, we could open them up. Our boys are experienced and they are intelligent," said St Eunan’s manager Eddie Brennan.

“The scoreline doesn’t give Enniskillen enough credit because they made us work hard for that scoreline. That’s what happened. We were made to work hard and that’s why that scoreline is there. Anyhow, we are now into the final against Crossmaglen and we will look forward to that.”

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