Rockland 1-8 Donegal 0-8
In a game of two halves, Rockland did enough in the first to build a sustainable lead and was then able to hold off a battling Donegal side which fought to the end but ran out of time in this junior league final.
On a beautiful Thursday evening in perfect conditions, Rockland went into the break leading 1-6 to 0-2. Both sides had points to open the game, with Kevin Lilly already showing good form and his experience to get on the board for Donegal.
They were finding in Rockland number six Kieran Quealy a rock in the center of the defense. One who never wavered over the hour, and broke down numerous attacks with his intelligent and inspirational play. Nick Mangan was also doing a lot of work in the middle that was giving his forward line chances on goal.
Points from Conor McIntire and Ronan Curry pushed Rockland into the lead, and with 10 minutes left in the half they got a huge break. A defensive slip-up gave Ronan Curry a chance to run at goal. He sprinted 20 yards with ball in hand after an interception and drilled a low shot to the left corner of the net for a 1-5 to 0-2 lead. They tacked on a point before the break for a seven-point interval lead.
Donegal started a tremendous comeback almost immediately on the restart. Tommy Moran was starting to come into the game at center back, and his outlet passes were finding sub Anton Diver and the deep dropping Lilly continuously. Diver was causing all sorts of problems with his running on and off the ball, and he set up Lilly for a brace from a free and play.
Rockland did have a point from McIntire to respond but again Donegal attacked. Three wides hurt their chances, but a fisted point from Brendan Grant narrowed the gap.
Both sides lost influential players with time running down, McIntire to a black card for Rockland, Brian Heggerty to a red for Donegal. The numbers game was going to have a bearing.
With time running down, the extra man for the conquerors was to have a large bearing. They were able to utilize him in the back line and it helped nullify some attacks.
They also broke out for a Sean McGrath score that pushed the advantage out to three. A number that Donegal could not get closer than as time expired.
Kieran Quealy was inspirational for Rockland. McGrath, Mangan, McIntire, Curry and Moroney also contributed handsomely.
Tommy Moran, Brian Breslin, Givney, Diver and Lilly all had good outings for Frank Molloy’s side.
Donegal: 1 James McFadden, 2 Simon Gillespie, 3 Brian Sweeney, 4 Kevin Purce, 5 Brian Breslin, 6 Tommy Moran, 7 Jack Donnelly, 8 Brian Givney, 9 Brian Heggerty, 10 Ed Myers, 11 Stephen Cunningham, 12 Dan Slovin, 13 Greg King, 14 Kevin Lilly, 15 Brendan Grant.
Rockland: 1 Pat Guerin, 2 Declan Neville, 3 Murris Fitzpatrick, 4 Simon Daly, 5 Sean McGrath, 6 Kieran Quealy, 7 Timmy Furlong, 8 Nick Mangan, 9 Shane Durkin, 10 Brendan Fennell, 11 Denis Michalak, 12 Conor McIntire, 13 Steven Moroney, 14 Ronan Curry, 15 Martin Linnane.
Man of the match: Kieran Quealy (Rockland)
Referee: Eugene Kyne.