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Fortune favours the brave for Cavan Gaels goal king

Derrygonnelly 2-15 Cavan Gaels 5-07

By Declan Bogue

Barry Fortune slotted in Cavan Gaels’ fifth goal to finally subdue Derrygonnelly and fire his side into their first Ulster final in 40 years.

The astonishing goal six minutes into added time snatched a 5-7 to 2-15 replay win and set up an Ulster Club SFC decider against holders Slaughtneil next Sunday.

Cruel though it was for Derrygonnelly Harps, it came from what was by then a depressingly familiar pattern.

Four of the Gaels’ goals came from balls floated in around the square towards Paul O’Connor, who tapped home three majors in six minutes either side of the break, in addition to his assist for Fortune at the death.

In 1977, Cavan Gaels lost that decider to Antrim’s St John’s. They will be massive underdogs for the first time this season when they come up against Slaughtneil and the excesses of this tie which went to extra-time last week will hardly aid them in  becoming the first club from that county to capture a Seamus McFerran Cup. And for all that, it could have been Derrygonnelly that were lining up this Sunday for their third consecutive meeting with Slaughtneil in this competition. Things were bright indeed for the Harps around the quarter-mark. They had already spurned a goal chance for Neil Gallagher who dragged a clear cut chance wide when fisting over the bar might have been a better option. But when Ryan Jones was fouled and took a quick free to Paul Ward, the former county attacker skied a shot. The dropping ball hopped off Stephen McGullion and Ward appeared miraculously to gather the break and produced a tidy finish under the body of Gaels’ goalkeeper Ciaran Flynn.

Further points from Gary McKenna (free) and a rocket from Declan Cassidy had them up by double scores, 1-5 to 0-4, but then they had a disastrous four-minute spell as the half wound down when they conceded three goals and then another one just after the break. 

Martin Dunne played a crossfield ball and O’Connor held off Shane McGullion to collect on the turn, dummy past goalkeeper Dermot Feely and grab his first.

Just two minutes later Dunne went for a point and although Feely collected a routine catch, O’Connor punched it cleanly out of his hands and the third goal was just another two minutes after that, a stray Garvan McGinley handpass springing a Gaels counterattack that finished with a smart Johnston goal.

For a game that never produced a single goal chance across the 90 minutes played in last week’s draw, there were eleven clear chances here. Dunne floated another delivery goalwards in the first minute of the second half and O’Connor took everything in his path to knock home, the resulting collision forcing Harps 42-year-old goalkeeper Feely off the pitch and out of a personal nightmare.

“We went to put high balls into the square to see if it would work,” revealed Gaels manager, the famously goal-hungry Cavan attacker Jason Reilly said afterwards.

“We did work on it. Sometimes they come off and sometimes they don’t. We were just lucky today they did come off and today there were easier chances missed when we would usually bury them.”

Six points down at the start of the half, Derrygonnelly restricted Gaels to just two more points over the next 35 minutes. For all that, they were living dangerously as the composed trio of Miceál Lyng, Seanie Johnston and Martin Dunne combined to butcher a brilliant chance and Kevin Meehan — a menace who hit two first half points ghosted in behind the cover, received a pass from Dunne and rounded substitute goalkeeper Jack Kelly only to fail to hit the target.

Harps’ worker bee Declan Cassidy began forcing turnovers all over the field and one of those led to a quick free directed to Conall Jones who lashed to the net. Cassidy himself with a measured finish, and his elder brother Kevin with a rocket of an effort, kept the teams level before Ryan Jones stepped up and thumped a point over from 50 yards.

But these things are never over until they are over and the six minutes required to tend to and ultimately remove the injury-stricken Feely from the pitch was to be their undoing as O’Connor’s clever flick was met by Fortune. A cruel way to lose.

“Devastating,” said Harps manager Martin Greene afterwards. And it was.

Derrygonnelly: D Feely; Shane McGullion, D Greene, M Jones 0-1; N Gallagher, E McHugh, G McGinley; R Jones 0-2, G Jones; K Cassidy 0-2, P Ward 1-2, D Cassidy 0-2; G McKenna (0-5, 4f), Stephen McGullion, C Jones 1-0

Subs: J Kelly for Feely (31m), Lee Jones for G McGinley (46m), A Gallagher for N Gallagher (53m), G McGinley for McGullion (56m)

Cavan Gaels: C Flynn; L Fortune, N Murray, K Meehan 0-2; S Murray, B Fortune 1-0, D Sexton 0-1; P Graham, R Maloney-Derham; N Smith, D Meehan, A Graham; P O’Connor 3-0, S Johnston 1-4, 2f, M Dunne

Subs: V Coyle for D Meehan (13m), M Lyng for A Graham (50m), E Fortune for P Graham (57m)

Referee: Sean Laverty (Antrim)

Attendance: 2,500

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