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St Michael's prove a bridge too far

Senior Football Championship Quarter-Final
Aodh Ruadh 0-10
Saint Michael's 3-13
15 October 2021
John Hughes reports from MacCumhaill Park, Ballybofey.

Aodh Ruadh exited the championship with a whimper as St Michael's dominated Friday evening's SFC quarter-final from beginning to end. Barry Ward was forced into a number of personnel shifts with Shane McGrath and David Dolan unavailable at late notice. When Michael McKenna was also forced off with injury early in the game Ballyshannon's chances took a further blow. As it transpired, they were blows which St Michael's were absolutely primed to capitalise on.

They hit 1-6 before Aodh Ruadh finally got off the mark on 20 minutes. Ballyshannon then had their best spell of the game to leave it at 0-5 to 1-7 at the interval, but St Michael's were about to take things up a gear. Niall Murray got the first score of the new half, but when St Michael's came back with a 1-3 salvo Aodh Ruadh were in Hail Mary territory. Aodh Ruadh did pull three points back in the run up to the second half water break, but those were cancelled out with a hammer-blow third St Michael's goal, and after that it was a matter of playing out time on a chilly night in MacCumhaill Park.

It was a nightmare opening half for the Ernesiders with Saint Michael's dominating possession and kicking scores at will. They opened their account on three minutes with Michael Langan punting over from 40 metres. A few minutes later an Aodh Ruadh attempt to to get off the mark came off the post only for St Michael's to counter and Hugh O'Donnell to hoist over from a central position

Ballyshannon then lost Jason Granaghan on a black card on 11 minutes and St Michael's made full use, hitting and unanswered 1-5 in that period.

It started with Michael Langan landing a long range free from out on the right and that was followed by an easy score from Andrew Kelly. Martin McElhinney then clipped over from close range before St Michael's landed a real body blow on 18 minutes.

Yet again the men in red cut through the Ballyshannon defence with ease and Michael Langan took a crack at goal. His shot was well saved, but the rebound comes straight to Langan and he whipped home. That was followed by a badly needed water break with St Michael's leading by 1-5 to no score.

They picked up where they left off on the resumption with Michael Langan flighting over from the left. Aodh Ruadh finally got off the mark when a long ball in from a free came to Ryan Granaghan and he hooked over.

St Michael's were gifted an easy answering score when the Aodh Ruadh kick out went straight to Michael Gallagher and he split the posts.

Mercifully that was their last score of the half and Aodh Ruadh finally started to shake off some of the nerves which had plagued them so far. On 25 minutes Johnny Gethins drove the ball between the posts after a nice pass from sub Johnny Gallagher.

Two minutes later Eddie Lynch and Philip Patton raided for two points in quick succession. The loud cheer which greeted Patton's score gave voice to the large Ballyshannon attendance's pent up desire to see the team show what they were really capable of.

On the stroke of half-time Patton sent over a free from 20 metres in front of the posts and that left it double scores 0-5 to 1-7 at the break.

Aodh Ruadh were still in the game, but a dramatically improved display was required in the second-half.

Unfortunately, it was St Michael's who took things up a notch, and they had their semi-final place booked some distance out from the final whistle.

It started promisingly enough with Niall Murray squeezing a shot just inside the left upright to put four between the sides. However, St Michael's came back with points from Andrew Kelly and Hugh O'Donnell. After O'Donnell's point the Aodh Ruadh kick out went straight to Andrew Kelly who slipped off to Martin McElhinny and he stroked home to the back of the empty net.

When Carlos O'Reilly pointed on 38 minutes on the clock it was already looking like Ballyshannon's goose was cooked.

And when Michael Gallagher managed to stay on the pitch after a horror head-high tackle on Nathan Boyle it was clear this was one night where nothing was going to go Aodh Ruadh's way.

Nevertheless the Ernesiders kept plugging away, Philip Patton converting a close range free on 41 minutes. Then Johnny Gallagher found the range with a nice shot off the outside of the boot before Nathan Boyle sent in a free which dropped short and came out to Cian Rooney to clip over. That made it Aodh Ruadh 0-9 St Michael's 2-10, but hopes of an Erneside come back remained slim, given the struggle each score cost them.

They were extinguished altogether on 46 minutes when a long free from Michael Langan caught the Aodh Ruadh reargard napping and Eddie O'Reilly beat Carlos O'Reilly to get the last touch as the ball hit the net. O'Reilly wasn't to be denied though, picking off a point shortly after to make it 0-9 to 3-11.

The game was dead from that point onwards and when Ryan Granaghan finally edged Aodh Ruadh into double figures it was a minute from time, and even that small gesture of defiance was answered with interest as Stephen Doak and Carlos O'Reilly hit the game's closing scores.

So it finished a sobering 12 point defeat for an Aodh Ruadh side who were never afforded the opportunity to hit their stride.

Mark McGlynn was Aodh Ruadh's best player on the night, wilfully carrying the fight to St Michael's. At the other end of the age specturm Johnny Gallagher rolled back the years and gave a battling display on his introduction. In truth though, a seasoned St Michael's side were full value for their semi-final place.

Despite the nature of this defeat, it has been an encouraging season for Aodh Ruadh and there will be considerable anticipation and optimism as we look forward to Division 1 and senior championship football in 2022.

Vital Statistics
Aodh Ruadh
Karl O'Brien; Jason Granaghan, Colm Kelly, Conor Patton; Mark McGlynn, Eddie Lynch, Johnny Gethins; Eamonn McGrath, Nathan Boyle; Philip Patton (0-X, Xf), Niall Murray, Michael McKenna; Ryan Granaghan, Darren Drummond, Oisin Rooney.
Substitutions: Johnny Gallagher on for Michael McKenna 12 minutes; Cian Rooney for Ryan Granaghan HT; Senan Rooney for Niall Murray 38 minutes; Kyle Murray for Conor Patton 45 minutes; Ryan Granaghan for Darren Drummond 47 minutes.
Saint Michael's
Oisin Cannon; Jamie Hunter, Liam Paul Ferry, Stephen Doak; Kyle McGarvey, Michael Gallagher, Oisin Langan; Michael Langan, Martin Breslin; Carlos O'Reilly, Hugh O'Donnell, Christy Toye; Andrew Kelly, Martin McElhinney, Bryan Creed.
Substitutions: Eddie Reilly for Christy Toye 45 minutes; Ciaran Kelly for Bryan Creed 50 minutes.
Referee: James Connors (Saint Eunan's).

Last modified: Monday, 18 October 2021 at 8:17pm