The bookies had Fingal at 13/2 to beat Donegal in the Nicky Rackard semi-final in Letterkenny on Saturday. After the North Dublin outfit suffered a heavy defeat to Donegal in a NHL relegation/promotion playoff and with home advantage to the Tir Chonaill men it must have looked a safe bet for the bookmaking fraternity. After all when did you last see a bookie on a bicycle.
If the bookies knew, that Fingal had lost Graham Morris and Ian Furlong to college exams and top scorer JM Sheridan was ruled out suffering concussion from a blow in a club match, they would probably have lengthened the odds.
Donegal opened the scoring with a goal from Enda McDermott in 3rd min and Dean Kelly’s long range shot went all the way to the net to level in 5th min. But it took Fingal another 19 minutes to score again. In the meantime Donegal were making hay in the warm sunshine and racked up 8 points without reply. Five of these came from frees some of which were difficult to understand.
After 20 minutes of the game with Donegal leading 1-8 to 1-0 and Fingal wing back Paddy Sheridan out of the game with a hamstring tear, you could have probably got 50 to 1 on Fingal winning. However the Fingal team hadn’t read that script and with great heart and skill they set about rescuing the day.
In the last 15 minutes of the first half Fingal scored 1-4 with the goal coming from Dave Smyth and points from Peter Daly (2), Colm Foley and Dean Kelly
They also held Donegal scoreless in this period to leave the interval tally at Donegal 1-8 Fingal 2-4.
The second half was a tight battle with the scores being level on 4 occasions before Fingal pulled ahead in the last 5 minutes. Peter Daly hit a 65 to tie the game in 37th min only for Donegal to retake the lead with a Danny Cullen free.Dean Kelly pointed in 41st min and again Donegal edged ahead 3 mins later. A Daly pointed free for Fingal was answered by a 65 from Cullen. In the 60th minute Donegal edged two in front but then lost influential midfielder Cullen to injury and corner back Shane Gallen to a second yellow card.
Fingal’s superior fitness and sheer desire for victory propelled them home with Andy Richardson scoring a great point in the 64th minute. With Donegal now under pressure and conceding frees, Peter Daly converted three of these in last five minutes to seal the win. In the final minute another Donegal player was given a straight red card.
This was a hard tussle with no quarter asked or given. The Fingal defence was terrific in bottling up attackers and the hooking and blocking was superb. Captain Niall Ring who had to switch to full back blotted out Donegal’s dangerous full forward Paddy Hannigan while Dermot Vaughan at centre back although carrying an injury was majestic. Bryan Kelly who replaced the injured Paddy Sheridan gave an impressive display of man marking. In goal Hilar
Murray Hession brought off some crucial saves and his puck outs were consistently accurate and lengthy
At centrefield the experienced duo of Dave Hattie and Ross McGarry more than held their own against a vaunted Donegal pairing of Cullen and Paul Sheridan.
In the forward line Dean Kelly was outstanding and along with his scoring contribution of 1-2 he covered acres of ground. Andy Richardson gave a great display at centre forward – his prowess in the air and surging runs put the Donegal defence under great pressure.
The man of the match however was Peter Daly who came in for regular free taker JM Sheridan, His overall display allied to his accuracy from placed balls was a determining factor in the Fingal success.
By qualifying for the Nicky Rackard Cup Final in Croke Park on Sat 7th June Fingal have justified the faith shown in them at Dublin convention when delegates voted for a motion to Congress to admit them to this competition.
Although their NHL form was poor they seem to have turned a corner, Manager Mick Kennedy is getting the best now from a group of very committed hurlers and we wish them the best of luck against Tyrone in the final.
Fingal Team: H. Murray Hession (St Sylvesters) P.Coyne (T.Gaels) N.Ring (N.Barrog) A.Morris (St Sylvesters) P.Sheridan (Fingallians) D.Vaughan (Fingallians) I.Kennedy (Fingallians) D.Hattie (St Finians) R.McGarry (Skerries Harps) D.Kelly (T.Gaels) A.Richardson (St Sylvesters) P.Daly (Fingallians) C.Foley (St Peregrines) D.Smyth (St Brigids) C.O’Flynn (St Sylvesters)
Subs: B.Kelly (St Pats D.) for Sheridan and D.Butterly (St Maurs) for Foley