Ronan McDonald injury-time winner sees Donaghmoyne past Aghagallon
AIB Club Ulster Intermediate Football Championship semi-final: St Mary’s, Aghagallon (Antrim) 3-10 Donaghmoyne Fontenoys (Monaghan) 2-14
THREE minutes into injury-time in a thrilling semi-final at Pairc Esler yesterday, Ronan McDonald swung over a free to earn his Donaghmoyne side a place in the Ulster intermediate final.
It was a simple 12-yard free but the pressure was really on the half-forward, as the sides were locked together at 2-13 to 3-10.
But McDonald was single-minded and sure-footed as he fired the ball accurately between the posts.
This was a match either team could have won. Donaghmoyne led by four points at the break but in the third quarter Aghagallon netted three times and pointed twice while their rivals could only register a single score.
At that stage, with 15 minutes left, the Antrim side led by six points and looked odds-on favourites to reach the Ulster final. But led by their skipper Padraig Donaghy, the Monaghan team refused to chuck in the towel and earned their final spot with courage, tenacity and no small amount of skill.
Donaghmoyne opened the scoring on two minutes when Donaghy left-footed over the bar. But Euan Walsh levelled for Aghagallon. The teams then traded scores, Donaghy on target for the Monaghan side with Gareth Magee pointing at the opposite end with a free.
But on 15 minutes, Donaghmoyne netted somewhat fortuitously. Niall Garland appeared to shoot for a point from out of the right, but the ball dropped, caught the inside of the post before cannoning into the net.
And Donaghy added another point to put the Monaghan men four ahead. Yet Aghagallon battled back and pointed three times in quick succession, from a Magee free and excellent scores from Dessie Marshall and Oisin Lenehan.
However, Donaghmoyne went in at the break four points ahead. Ronan McDonald pointed from a free with, on 29 minutes, Shane McElroy grabbing an opportunist goal. Stephen Finnegan did great work down the right and shot for the target.
A defender blocked but fumbled with McElroy taking advantage of his lapse to dive low and fist into the net. Magee reduced the arrears before the interval. Donaghmoyne edged the contest in the first half but Aghagallon came out in the second with all guns blazing.
Indeed in a 10-minute spell the Antrim men went from four points down to six points ahead, grabbing 3-2 to a single point. On 35 minutes, Aghagallon snatched their first goal with Ruairi McCann and Ruairi Loughran combining to set up Gareth Magee who blasted low into the net.
Magee added a further two points and on 42 minutes they hit the net again, this time Davy McAlernon firing home from a penalty kick after Donaghmoyne full-back Mikey Murnaghan was penalised for charging. Dan Donnelly snapped up a third Antrim goal with McCann supplying the pass.
It looked then that Aghagallon were on course for victory but the Monaghan men stormed back with points from Darren Coleman (0-3), McDonald (0-3) and substitute Christopher Deery while, by contrast, only Francie Bustard could only muster a point for Aghagallon.
In the final exciting minutes, Liam McCrory and Darren Coleman traded scores to keep the sides level.
But deep into injury time Ronan McDonald knocked over that matchwinning free to put his side into the Ulster final.