It was celebrations for Buncrana who made up for the dis-appointment of relegation from Division 2 in August by winning the Junior Championship with an added time scoring blitz that spelt heartbreak for a brave Letterkenny Gaels side for the second time in one day. Gaels however, despite today’s setbacks will in time look back on a very successful season that seen them win the Jimmy McGlynn Catering Division 4 title and get promoted to Division 3 for the first time in their history, a Division where they will meet today’s champions Buncrana.
It was tit for tat during the first quarter of this game. After fourteen minutes Conor McBrearty converted the first of his two penalties to open a 1-3 to 0-2 lead but this daylight between the sides was short-lived as two minutes later JP McKenna goaled for Buncrana. In the second quarter what was mostly a very good game wilted without a single score until an added time flurry seen the sides exchange points. Then came the second of Conor McBrearty’s converted penalties as the last kick of the half gave the Gaels a 2-4 to 1-3 lead.
The second period mostly belonged to Buncrana. The loss of in-form midfielder Liam Doherty to injury early in the second half was a blow to the Gaels but they still refused to lie down. Stout defending kept Buncrana at bay and while the Inishowen men dominated possession they did not draw level until the fifteenth minute. Gaels responded with their first score of the second half to restore their lead. It was point for point thereafter and the sides were level at the end of normal time.
For the second time that day, the additional minutes proved heart-breaking for Letterkenny Gaels. In the second of the five added minutes a Caolan McGonagle free gave Buncrana the lead. Gaels countered and as they probed for an opening a slip by one of their half-backs let late substitute Darrach O’Connor in for another Buncrana point. As the Letterkenny men poured forward seeking a winning goal they left massive gaps behind them and when Buncrana turned over possession O’Connor struck again firing the ball to the net and putting a gloss on the score that belied the closeness of the contest but more importantly brought the McCloskey Cup to Buncrana.
Congratulations to both teams on a closely fought encounter and hard luck to the Gaels on their double dis-appointment. Captain Oisin O’Flaherty accepted the trophy from County Chairman Mick McGrath and good luck to Buncrana, Donegal Junior Champions for 2019, in Ulster. They now begin their journey through Ulster where their first round opponents will be the winners of the Antrim and Armagh champions – a game that takes place tomorrow between Naomh Padraig and Collegeland. Donegal club football is riding high at the moment and with a bit of luck perhaps Buncrana will land the County’s third Ulster Junior title in recent years, emulating Naomh Colmcille and Red Hughs.