Danske Bank Mac Rory Cup 2020, Section A
Cathair Dhoire 1-17, Inis Eoghain 3-10
Cahir McMonagle was the hero on a night of historic firsts at The Scarvey on Wednesday as Cathair Dhoire scored their inaugural Mac Rory Cup victory in a memorable game against fellow north west amalgamation, Inis Eoghain.
A sooner than expected elevation from Mac Larnon football for both pitched this competition opener in the 'crucial' category but there was nothing between two teams who met twice last season in the second tier cup with one win a-piece, even if the Derry lads held bragging rights after progressing to the final.
And it was equally as tight in Buncrana, Cathir Dhoire recovering from a slow start to dominate the first half before being forced to dig deep after the break against a resurgent Inishowen side.
Lifting the Mac Rory Cup may not be in the destiny of either side this season but based on this performance, both look well equipped to shock some of the more traditional big guns.
For Cathair Dhoire, Donncha Gilmore was superb in a roving half-back role, surging forward two minutes from time to win the free from which McMonagle would win the game. Midfielder Oran McMenamin put in a huge shift as did Naoise O'Mianain who had the unenviable task of trying to curtail Inishowen's Josh Conlan, one of the game's stand-out performers.
Shea Browne was excellent until a harsh second half black card cut short his evening but coaches, Paul Simpson, Michael McLaughlin, Conal Donaghy and Michael McCullagh have a plethora of attacking options with Liam Connolly, Jude Og Moore providing mobility, pace and scoring prowess in a front three that will get scores against anybody.
Indeed McMonagle's match winning point was not even his own personal highlight, that accolade belonging to his outrageous second half 'rabona' pass which should have brought a goal for Moore but for a superb save by Inishowen's Paul Doherty.
On another night Cathair Dhoire could have had four goals, Doherty responsible for a couple of great saves while full backs Peter Bradley and Sean Doherty produced breath-taking blocks either side of the interval.
Malin senior player, Conlan, was superb as he hit a personal tally of 1-04 but Inishowen will regret an overly cautious first half approach after hitting 1-01 in the first two minutes because they caused Dhoire plenty of problems after the break, fighting back from seven points down two minutes into the second half to level with four minutes remaining.
That set up the grand finale and no better man than McMonagle to slot over a free that owed everything to Gilmore's tenacity.
If it was heart-stopping stuff, it was just the game Cathir Dhoire needed because nothing binds a squad better than collective victory in a fierce battle and the Dhoire coaches will have been delighted with how their players responded when questions were asked.
If the finale was frenetic, the opening was just as frantic, Inishowen hitting 1-01 before the visitors had drawn breath thanks to Conlan's point and an opportunistic low finish from the impressive Christopher McDaid.
That looked ominous but Inishowen never pushed on and as Catahir Dhoire settled the tide turned.
Shea Browne, Connolly (2), Caolan O'Kane and a McMonagle a free had all registered some superb scores before Inishowen's third score but crucially their second goal as Conlan burst on to a breaking ball before finishing well despite being closed down for 2-01 to 0-5.
Inishowen's strong running from deep was causing Cathair Dhoire huge problems but they regathered themselves once more to dominate again, Jude Og Moore and Browne levelling matters only to see Caolan McGonagle scored a great point at the other end.
The rest of the half though belonged to the visitors and the only surprise was they didn't find the net as McMonagle (2), Gilmore, Browne (2), Jack Boyce were all on target to send the visitors into half-time leading 0-13 to 2-03.
The lead didn't flatter Cathir Dhoire and they should have been further clear, a fact that very nearly came back to haunt them after the break as Inishowen stepped on the gas.
The sides traded scores before Connolly's superb turn on the right saw him scamper away to set up McMonagle for the easiest of fisted finishes into the Inishowen net. At 1-15 to 2-05, that looked like that.
Except no one told Inishowen. Throwing caution to the wind and re-positioning Christopher McDaid closer to goal, they went for the jugular as Conor O'Neill, Conlan, substitute Luke Doherty and Drew McKinney points either side of their third goal of the evening. it owed everything to Caolan McGonagle's driving run which caused the mayhem through which McDaid fired new life into Inishowen's challenge with an opportunistic goal.
It had been 12 minutes since McMonagle's goal when Gilmore's second point took Cathair Dhoire to 1-16 but with Inishowen fighting and McDaid taking his team to 3-10 this was anyone's.
The sides level. Four minutes left. Stick or twist time.
Dhoire held their nerve. Gilmore won the free and McMonagle slotted it over but bodies were put on the line in four minutes of added time and they were every bit as crucial.
There will be bigger challenges to come but Cathair Dhoire have shown they have the stomach for the fight.
Cathair Dhoire: Adam Hargan, Padriag Neilis, Thomas Logue, Naoise O’Mianián, Donncha Gilmore (0-2), Shane McElhinney, Caolan O’Kane (0-1), Conaire Molloy, Oran McMenamin, Jack Boyce (0-1), Shea Browne (0-4), Tiarnan O’Connor, Cahir McMonagle (1-4 2f), Jude Og Moore (0-2), Liam Connolly (0-3)
Subs: Jude McElhinney for S Browne, 35mins, Mark McGilligan, 54mins, Adrian Cutliffe for J Boyce, 61mins.
Inis Eoghain: Paul Doherty, Peter Bradley, Sean Doherty, Caolan Harkin, Eoghan Mac Laughlin, Adam McGonagle, Caolan McGonagle (0-1), Michael McLaughlin, Drew McKinney (0-1), Kevin Jordan, Josh Conlan (1-4 2f), Oisin Crawford, Kurran Curran, Christopher McDaid (2-1), Conor O’Neill (0-1).
Subs: Luke Doherty (0-1) for D McKinney, 24mins; Kyle McCann for K Jordan, HT.
Referee: Sean Hurson (Tyrone)