By Mike Fitzpatrick
Stamford 2-15, Donegal 2-10
Those at Gaelic Park on Sunday witnessed a fabulous comeback by pretenders to the throne Stamford in this senior football Div. 1 tie.
The game opened on a strong note for this rampant Donegal side, with the hugely impressive Stephen Cassidy knocking in a couple of early points for the Ulster side. It became increasingly obvious that to stem Donegal’s attack, Stamford had to mark Cassidy efficiently, though that’s rather easier said than done.
And even if Cassidy was out of the picture, there was still the slight matter of Dubliner Jim Gavin, the intercounty star from back home making a weekend visit to New York in Donegal colors. Add to this such potential scoring threats as Gary Dowd, Kieran Keaveney, Tadhg Donovan and Dave McSweeney, and it was clear that Stamford had a tough assignment ahead of them.
Therefore, the lads from Connecticut deserve mighty credit for subduing this all-conquering Donegal side, and in doing so, winning by such a healthy margin.
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Smothered by the Stamford backline, the Ulster men were forced to rely heavily on the accurate free-taking of Dubliner Gavin to bring them onto the scoreboard with any regularity. A goal from Enda Lohan, which appeared thanks to some good midfield work from McSweeney, rocked Stamford a little, but the second half produced a scenario that not many would have predicted before the game.
Stamford came out roaring. Spurred on by their fanatical support, Paul Clancy surged forward and hit a couple of efforts over the bar to grab a lead for Stamford and, ably assisted by Spike Martin up front, Stamford had Donegal on the ropes.
With their three point half-time lead looking to be reasonably safe despite efforts from Gavin and sub Vinnie Collins threatening otherwise, Stamford attacked with increasing regularity.
In a five-minute burst, the Connecticut side hit four rapid-fire points from Clancy, Martin and Keith Hennessy to move further in front.
Substitute Eric McDonald hit another and despite a late Donegal score from Mickey McCaffery, it was to be Stamford’s day.
Donegal are safe, having already qualified for the playoffs, but on this performance, don’t bet against Stamford surprising everyone with a championship success.
Stamford: John Wallace, Niall Slattery, Pat Coyne, Brendan Brady, Declan Curtin, Richie Purcell, Mark Comerford, Ronan Mooney, Richie Power (0-4), Paul Clancy (0-7), Keith Hennessy (0-1), Justin O’Halloran, Mike Martin (1-2), Ted Steede (1-0), Carl Slattery. Sub: Eric McDonald (0-1).
Donegal: Eunan Doherty, Keith Nolan, Sean Martin Lockhard, Mark McClafferty, Keith Murray, Owen Cummins, Gerry Kelly, Dave McSweeney (0-1), Gary Dowd (0-1), Enda Lohan (1-0), Kieran Keaveney, Tadhg Donovan, Mickey McCafferey (0-1), Jim Gavin (0-4), Stephen Cassidy (1-2). Sub: Vinnie Collins (0-1).