AIB Ulster Club SFC Semi-Final
Glen Watty Grahams 0-10 Naomh Conaill 1-6
Reigning champions Glen will appear in a third successive AIB Ulster Senior Club final after Emmet Bradley’s brilliant winner four minutes into injury time finally broke the resolve of Donegal’s Naomh Conaill in O’Neill’s Healy Park on Saturday evening.
Malachy O’Rourke’s team went into the semi-final as strong favourites, but were made to fight for every inch after John O’Malley’s early second half penalty threatened to set up an upset. Yet even after AJ Gallagher’s 63rd minute point seemed to have sent the game to extra-time, the Derry champions still found a way, Bradley’s brilliant 45m effort the last kick of a semi-final that finally caught fire in the final quarter.
The game started in predictable fashion, Noamh Conaill retreating inside their ’45’ and allowing Glen possession while poised to counter from deep. It looked like paying dividends early on when the Donegal men twice turned Glen over inside the opening minutes.
Gradually, though, Glen settled as they worked their way around the Glenties defensive shield with the lively Conleth McGuckian locksmith in chief. First up, was a fifth minute mark from the left which got the scoreboard ticking over and while it would be another seven minutes before his second after a quick Glen break.
Glenties were rarely being seen as an attacking force at this stage with Cathal Mulholland underlying the Derry side’s dominance with an audacious left footed effort from a tight angle down left side’s.
Then McGuckian grabbed his third score of the day to put Glen well in charge with 22 minutes on the clock. It looked ominous for Glenties, but a quick change of approach breathed new life into their challenge.
It took until the 19th minute for the Donegal side to register a wide and it would be the 23rd minute before Ciaran Thompson finally got them on the scoreboard, and his excellent point kickstarted an unlikely revival.
Suddenly two points in a minute, one brilliant outside of the boot effort from Ethan O’Donnell, the second another lovely Thompson effort, had Naomh Conaill right on Glen’s coat-tails again and Glen seeking a score to settle them down again.
That score duly arrived from Ciaran McFaul in the Watty’s last attack of the half, but it was the Donegal men would have been happier turning around at 0-5 to 0-3 after looking out of the game for long periods.
The Glenties resurgence continued after the restart with O’Malley’s penalty. It was Anthony Thompson’s long ball which saw the man wearing three go to ground surrounded by Glen defenders.
The underdogs scored a penalty when O’Malley’s spot kick, high to Connlan Bradley’s left, was assured and Naomh Conaill led for the first time two minutes into the second half.
Glen’s response was that of champions, going through the gears with a lovely from Cathal Mulholland from the left and a huge Emmett Bradley free to wrestle back the lead inside seven minutes of O’Malley’s goal.
But the men from Glenties weren’t finished just yet and buoyed by the boost of that second half goal, they came again as Brendan McDyer brought his side levelled once more with a lovely 45 metre effort.
Emmet Bradley scored a free from a tight angle to score a very difficult free from the right. Back came Noamh Conaill through the excellent Thompson to tie the game as three minutes added time were indicated. Plenty of time for more drama.
First Glen sub Stevie O’Gara seemed to have sent his team through to a third successive Ulster final with a wonderful left footed effort only to see AJ Gallagher appear once again on the edge of the Glen square to punch over a 63rd minutes equaliser.
Extra-time looked likely until the ball arrived at Emmet Bradley’s left foot which produced as score worthy of winning any championship game to ensure Glen will meet Scotstown.
Scorers for Glen: Conleth McGuckian (1m) and Emmett Bradley (2fs) 0-3 each, Cathal Mulholland 0-2, Ciaran McFaul and Stevie O’Hara 0-1 each.
Scorers for Naomh Conaill: John O’Malley 1-0 (pen), Ciaran Thompson 0-3, Ethan O’Donnell, Brendan McDyer, and AJ Gallagher 0-1 each.
Glen: Connlan Bradley, Michael Warnock, Ryan Dougan, Connor Carville, Eunan Mulholland, Ciaran McFaul, Cathal Mulholland, Conor Glass, Emmett Bradley, Ethan Doherty, Danny McDermott, Tiarnan Flanagan, Alex Doherty, Danny Tallon, Conleth McGuckian.
Subs: Jody McDermott for D McDermott (inj), 23mins, Stevie O’Hara for A Doherty, 53mins.
Naomh Conaill: Stephen McGrath, Eoin Waide, AJ Gallagher, Ultan Doherty, Kevin McGettigan, Anthony Thompson, Ethan O’Donnell, Leo McLoone, Ciaran Thompson, Brendan McDyer, Odhran Doherty, Eunan Doherty, Jeaic Mac CeallBhui, Charles McGuinness, John O’Malley.
Subs: Keelan McGill for J O’Malley, 52mins.
Referee: Sean Huson (Tyrone).