By Mike Fitzpatrick
Donegal 0-9, Rockland 0-7
Upon describing this game, the words "complete" and "disaster" spring to mind immediately. A reasonably low-scoring affair, it’s perhaps best forgotten that this Junior Football "A" game Sunday at Gaelic Park ever even occurred.
In a game littered with messy tackles, pointless punch-ups and bad misses in front of goal, it’s not difficult to comprehend how the referee lost control almost straight away. It started off on a good note, with Rockland laying siege upon the Donegal goal and scoring points through Ronan Keane and Terry O’Riordan and Donegal replying with the consistent Ronan Rocks grabbing a couple for his side. Then things became a little heated. In fact, "heated" is perhaps the biggest understated description since Satan claimed that the depths of hell were "a little warm."
Arguments between the two sides erupted throughout the game, and while the ball was at one end of the pitch, a fist fight was occurring at the other. At one point, the referee was inexcusably manhandled by some irate players, resulting in the debatable sending off of Rockland’s John McNamara, who seemed not to be the guilty party in the ugly antics that occurred.
It was a pity that the two teams could not have focused their anger upon the game rather than each other. It was painfully obvious that there was some exceptional talent on display. Donegal’s Rocks, Mark McClafferty Anton Diver and veteran goalkeeper Frank "Chief" Molloy will all probably prefer to disassociate themselves with this game as they have proved themselves many times before of being worthy of greater platforms upon which to illustrate their skills. Rockland’s Mickey Joe Hennessy, Jerry O’Riordan and Ronan Keane were best on the day for Rockland, when football was actually played.
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Going into half time Rockland held a deserved two-point advantage over their counterparts, having played more attacking football than Donegal. The second period, unfortunately, actually got worse as far as the needless violence was concerned. The Rockland players were understandably furious when Emmet Woods appeared to have been fouled with the goal at his mercy only to have the game played on. Donegal took advantage and began to surge forward with Tadhg Donovan and Dermot Boylan exchanging passes that resulted in Boylan snatching two consecutive points to level the tie. Rockland’s Eamonn O’Hara took up his sides cause, storming through a midfield, which resembled the Normandy landing on D-Day. Fighting off challenges and assisting O’Riordan in grabbing another point. Donegal’s Gary Dowd scored a goal only to have it disallowed as a foul had occurred on his journey toward goal.
The 60 minutes could not have elapsed sooner, and the quicker this bad tempered spectacle is erased from memory the better. The paying crowd at Gaelic Park deserve a lot more. Donegal claimed the result with another well-taken point by Dermot Boylan, but the spectators were left wondering whether there was a winner at all.
Rockland: Ray Lennon, Sean Roche, Tom O’Riordan, John McNamara, Donal Cassidy, Eamonn O’Hara, Ronan Keane (0-2), Tom McHugh, Sean Fitzpatrick, Jim Dwyer, David Fitzgerald (0-1), Emmet Woods, Jerry O’Riordan (0-3), Kevin Meehan, Mickey Joe Hennessy (0-1).
Donegal: Frank "Chief" Molloy, Pat McGill, Andy Lohan, Mark McClafferty, Raymond Kane, Kenny R’, Sean White, Ronan Rocks (0-4), Gary Dowd, Owen McGrath, Pearse Coyle (0-1), Tadhg Donovan, Mickey McBride, Dermot Boylan (0-4), Anton Diver.