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More than just a game as thousands cheer on Anto Finnegan

By David Mohan

Two points may have been the winning margin for Ulster's Allstars against Dublin at Belfast's Kingspan Park on Saturday night, but in the end the real winners were Anto Finnegan and deterMND trust.

This Game For Anto took place to raise funds so that research could be carried out for Motor Neurone Disease.

The thousands who arrived at the home of Ulster Rugby were treated to an excellent game with Michael McCann's goal two minutes after the restart proving pivotal as far as the result was concerned.

But the result, 2-18 to 1-19. was immaterial. Finnegan wore a smile as bright as the stadium's floodlights at the end.

"It was fantastic, fantastic support from the crowd, teams, minister and businesses. We are just delighted with it all," he said.

"I spoke to the lads myself in the changing room beforehand and explained to them that your football career is finite and to go out and enjoy every kick of the ball you can.

"Time goes by so quickly so you should enjoy everything while you can."

Enjoy it they did, as the star-studded line-ups served up a game befitting of the occasion.

The game was played at 13-a-side given the dimensions of the rugby pitch, and this contributed to a rather open contest.

The match got off to a blistering start with Dublin's Kevin McManamon blasting home only for his effort to be cancelled out in the next attack when Donal O'Hare broke through to find the net.

The first half ebbed and flowed with both sides having their spells. While it may have been a friendly game, Dublin's Dean Rock must have given manager Jim Gavin food for thought with a fantastic performance, clipping over six points, While Armagh's Jamie Clark was also in supreme form.

The sides went in 1-10 apiece at the break.

The Ulster side came out firing after the restart when a sweeping move resulted in Dan Gordon feeding the on-rushing Michael McCann who picked his spot and thumped past Stephen Cluxton.

It was virtually score for score thereafter with both sides having their spells, but Ulster always had that cushion. Again, Rock was in fantastic form for the Dubs, slinging over points for fun off his left and right, while Kevin McManamon - having been re-introduced in the second period - also chipped in with scores.

At the other end, Paddy McBrearty and Paddy Cunningham kept the scoreboard ticking over and Eoin Bradley hit a majestic point off his left boot.

Late scores from Eoghan O'Gara and McMenamin brought the visitors within one late on, but McBrearty sealed the Ulster win with a score in injury-time.

"One of the things we set out to do was to make sure his was a really enjoyable night," said Anto after the game.

"There were some emotions absolutely, but I think we enjoyed it with a smile on our faces."

Both managers were delighted with how the night unfolded.

Joe Kernan patrolled the Ulster line along with Donegal's Brian McEniff and the Armagh man said he was pleased with how his side gelled despite not playing as a collective before.

"It's very hard to get 26 boys who haven't played together and then make 13 subs to try and win a match," he said.

"Mick McCann was outstanding. Ciaran McKeever settled the whole thing down and then you had Conor Gormley, 'Ricey' (Ryan McMenamin) - cool heads at the right time.

"Everybody did the job they were asked to do so the bonus was getting the win."

For Dublin boss Jim Gavin, it was a chance to get his side together for the first time since their defeat to Donegal in August's All-Ireland semi-final.

He was happy to contribute to an entertaining contest.

"We hadn't seen each other since the All-Ireland semi-final so it was nice to meet up with them today," he said.

"Our whole objective was to go out and put our best foot forward, and make the game as competitive as we could against the top players in Ulster."

ULSTER ALLSTARS: R Beggan (0-1 '45'); K Clarke, G O'Kane; R McCluskey, P Harte, B Donaghy; M McCann (1-1), A Findon; N McKeever, K Dyas (0-1), S Campbell (0-2); D O'Hare (1-1),J Clarke (0-5,1 free). Used subs: C McKeever, KO'Boyle, D Gordon, P McBrearty (0-4, 1 free), E Bradley (0-1), P Cunningham (0-2, 1 free), T Kernan, R McMenamin, S McGreevy, M McGrath. Black cards: R McCluskey (20 mins - replaced by C Gormley).

DUBLIN: S Cluxton; D Byrne, D Daly; P McMahon, J McCaffrey, N Devereux; R Dunleavey, D Byrne; B Fenton, K McManamon (1-4), D Rock (0-10, 5 frees); P Ryan (0-2), E O'Gara (0-4). Used subs: R McDaid, N Walsh, L Molloy, N Scully.

Referee: Pat McEnaney (Monaghan).

Attendance: 6,103.

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