All-Ireland Club Junior Football Championship Quarter-Final
Red Hugh’s, Killygordon (Donegal) 3-11
Dunedin-Connolly’s (Scotland) 1-15
By Larry Cooney
At O’Donnell Park, Letterkenny
Two goals in extra-time from Stephen McMenamin and Shane Gallagher set up an All-Ireland semi-final place for Red Hugh’s, after a gallant bid from Dunedin Connolly’s narrowly failed by just two points.
But just how did the recent three-in-a-row provincial champions of Britain fail to win this enthralling encounter was the question that baffled many in O’Donnell Park, including a very relieved Red Hugh’s manager Seosamh Mac Ceallabhhui.
After a poor opening half, the Exiles found themselves trailing by 1-5 to 0-4 at the break. Some early missed scoring opportunities seemed to unsettle the visitors who trailed from the opening minute when Peadar McGlinchey won the throw-in and ran at their defence before raising the first white flag.
The hosts had the benefit of the elements in the opening half. Despite the heavy overnight rainfall the surface conditions were quite reasonable in between the showers and periods of sunshine.
The Exiles lined out as selected but their highly rated front line of attack was restricted as their midfield battled for possession and particularly much of the breaking ball in that area.
Nevertheless Frank Molloy tied the scores after six minutes with a neat left-footed finish. But a foul on Stephen McMenamin enabled Damien Browne to push the hosts back into the lead from the resultant free.
Red Hugh’s continued to dominate exchanges for much of the opening quarter and were good value for their 0-4 to 0-1 lead after 14 minutes.
The Exiles needed a response and were relieved to see Aldo Matassa gain possession to the right of the posts before taking the ball forward and fisting over.
However, disaster struck for the visitors when a ball lofted into their parallelogram appeared to be safely gathered by goal-keeper Adam McKeever, only for James Carlin to pounce for an opportunist goal and a 1-4 to 0-2 lead for the Ulster champions.
That lead was soon six points when wing back Odhran Doherty joined the attack for a fine finish.
Dunedin Connolly’s badly needed some kind of response before half-time as Sean Malee finally opened his account following a foul on Eanna Newton.
Newton left the field soon after that foul and his replacement Brendan Parsons did not take long to make his mark with a fine finish from a Sean Malee assist. Half-time score: Red Hugh’s 1-5 Dunedin-Connolly’s 0-4.
Four points adrift and playing well below their potential it did not look good for Dunedin Connolly’s prospects of progressing to the next round.
The Exiles really needed to ‘hit the ground running’ if they were to get back into contention and an early point from Frank Molloy seemed to be just the tonic.
But no sooner were they starting to ‘find their feet’ than influential wing back Ronan McGurk was dismissed for a ‘black card’ offence, and a short free from Declan Browne to Odhran Doherty saw the free-taker accept a ‘one-two’ to restore Red Hugh’s four-point lead.
But to their credit the Exiles continued to attack without much reward. Arran Moore had now joined the action as a replacement for the ‘black-carded’ Ronan McGurk and soon settled to the task.
For the second time in the game a scoring attempt hit the top of the crossbar and bounced back into play, before two minutes later a superb long-range effort from substitute Brendan Parsons cut the deficit to three points again.
However, it was a goal the Exiles really needed if they were going to make any serious impression on a Red Hugh’s team that was growing in confidence.
And when the hosts kicked three unanswered points it looked as if Dunedin Connolly’s ‘turkey was finally cooked’ with the scoreline reading 1-9 to 0-6.
Dunedin Connolly’s were now ‘staring down the barrel’ and really needed some inspiration from somewhere if they were going to rescue the situation as a contest with a look of inevitability about it. Then they suddenly came to life.
From the kick-out, Arran Moore began what proved to be one of the best moves of the match when he found centre-back Conor Horan joining the attack. He ran at the Red Hugh’s defence before finding Sean Malee with a superb pass, and he produced a sublime finish to the net.
Two minutes later a rejuvenated Exiles team were only two points in arrears when midfielder Brian McAteer was on target with a superb point.
Suddenly the momentum was all with the visitors and it could have been even better for them had Aldo Matassa not rushed his attempt for a point with five minutes of normal time remaining.
By now Alan Ward, wearing number 30, to mark the club’s 30th anniversary, had joined the action as a replacement for Kerry man Paul Reen in attack.
And after Brian McAteer set up Frank Molloy for another point to leave just the minimum between the teams Alan Ward tied the scores in the first of the four additional minutes with a superb effort to leave the score 1-9 apiece.
The hosts were ‘on the ropes’ but could the Exiles apply the ‘knock-out’ finish?
To their credit and although playing ‘second-fiddle’ since half-time Red Hugh’s somehow found the energy and grit to muster one last desperate attack and to the disgust of the visitors were awarded a scoreable free with less than two minutes on the clock.
Final score AET at O’Donnell Park
Connollys 1-15 Red Hughs 3-11. A valiant effort from our boys who left everything on the field today but fell just short. #DCvRH
— Dunedin Connollys (@DunedinCGFC) December 9, 2018
Their free-taker Declan Browne had been replaced, but he was summoned from the bench as a replacement for team captain Gerard Melaugh. And with nerves of steel Browne kicked what looked like being a match-winning point from the placed ball.
But from the kick-out Dunedin Connolly’s were back on the attack and Frank Molloy was fouled thirty-five metres from goal. Sean Malee was given the opportunity to save the day for the Exiles.
The Mayo man chose to kick from his hands and he made no mistake with the last kick of normal time to force extra-time as the score-line read: Dunedin-Connolly’s 1-10 Red Hugh’s 1-10.
Into extra-time and the hosts were first off the mark first through Peadar McGlinchey. But the Exiles responded magnificently with a point from Sean Malee in the fourth minute, and then saw an effort come back off a post as they pressed for the lead for the first time in the match.
And sure enough it was another superb effort from Alan Ward that finally had the Exiles ahead in the sixth minute of extra-time. And when Aldo Matassa kicked a fine score from the right of the posts for a two-point lead, the Exiles’ ‘tails were really up’.
But just as the first period of extra-time drew to a close in a rare counter-attack disaster struck for the visitors when Stephen McMenamin got on the end of a great length of the field move for a second Red Hugh’s goal.
That left the score at the end of the first period of extra-time; Red Hugh’s 2-11, Dunedin Connolly’s 1-13.
As the final ten minutes of action got underway Paul Reen replaced an exhausted Conor Horan. The Exiles began brightly with Frank Molloy being fouled and enabling Sean Malee to tie the scores at the pavilion end.
With wight minutes remaining the contest was still in the melting-pot as fortunes swayed to-and-fro and the tension became unbearable, until Shane Gallagher’s decisive finish for Red Hugh’s third goal two minutes from time.
Alan Ward opted to kick a late free over the bar and Dunedin Connolly’s then had one last opportunity from a close-in free. But when Sean Malee’s effort was blocked on the line and cleared away, Galway referee blew full-time to end an enthralling contest.
Scorers: Red Hugh’s – Damien Browne 0-5(0-3)f (0-1)45, James Carlin 1-1, Peadar McGlinchey 0-3, Stephen McMenamin and Shane Gallagher 1-0 each, Calvin Bradley and Odhran Doherty 0-1 each. Dunedin Connolly’s – Sean Malee 1-4(0-3)f, Frank Molloy and Alan Ward(0-1)f 0-3 each Aldo Matassa and Brendan Parsons 0-2 each and Brian McAteer 0-1.
Red Hugh’s: Ciaran Kelly; Cathal Doherty, Eugene Browne, Ryan Kelly; Odhran Doherty, Gerard Melaugh (capt.), Thomas McMenamin; Peadar McGlinchey, Stephen McMenamin; Damien Browne, Pauric McMenamin, Shane McGlinchey; Calvin Bradley, James Carlin, Gary Kelly. Subs: Jonny Carlin for Odhran Doherty 40, Sean Sweeney for Thomas McMenamin 55, Shane Gallagher for Declan Browne 56, PJ Gallagher for Gary Kelly 56, Declan Browne for Gerard Melaugh 63, Gerard Melaugh for Declan Browne ET, Gary Kelly for Ryan Kelly (inj.) ET3, Michael Devine for Gerard Melaugh ET18.
Dunedin Connolly’s: Adam McKeever; Fintan Kearney, Daniel O’Brien (capt.), Bryan Russell; Daniel Loftus, Conor Horan, Ronan McGurk; Brian McAteer, Tony Dever; Eanna Newton, Paul Rene, Conor McCann; Aldo Matassa, Frank Molloy, Sean Malee. Subs: Brendan Parsons for Eanna Newton (inj.) 27, Arran Moore for Ronan McGurk (B/C) 34, Paul for Conor Horan ET, Vincent Moriarty for Tony Dever (B/C) ET18.
Referee: James Molloy (Galway).