Liam Tunney reports from Bellaghy
St Canice’s (Derry) 0-10
Enniskillen Gaels (Fermanagh) 2-02
An injury time brace from Feargal Higgins and Conor Kelly tipped the balance in Dungiven’s favour after an absorbing hour of football in the incessant Bellaghy rain.
St Canice’s played three quarters of the game with 14 men, Daire McKeever dismissed for his involvement in the scenes directly after Conor Love’s 16th minute goal had put the Gaels ahead.
In a cagey encounter, the Derry side battled back to go in at the break one point ahead, but only after Enniskillen missed a glorious goal chance on the stroke of half-time.
The Gaels took the lead again with a 36th minute Paddy Cassidy goal , but again Dungiven showed grit to battle back and clinch victory in the closing stages.
Cahir Higgins opened the scoring with a 1st minute free, but Enniskillen almost took the lead when Conor Murphy flashed a shot across the face of Cahir Hasson’s goal on 7 minutes.
A further Higgins free doubled Dungiven’s advantage on 13 minutes but three minutes later, Conor Love reacted to a breaking ball and fired low to the corner to give the Gaels the lead.
The goal sparked an unsavoury exchange around midfield and when the dust settled, referee Eamonn McAuley delivered Dungiven midfielder Daire McKeever his marching orders.
St Canice’s then had a chance to make amends from the penalty spot after the referee spotted some pulling inside, but Cian Newman brilliantly turned Cahir Higgins’ effort away for a 45.
A Richie Mullan free levelled matters on 24 minutes and as the game entered first half stoppage time, Fintan Murphy added his first of the evening to edge his side into a half-time lead.
With the rain worsening, Feargal Higgins opened the second-half scoring to double his side’s advantage, only for Johnny Cassidy to float over a beauty in response.
Eoin Beacom’s 35th minute point levelled the match and Enniskillen continued to ride their momentum to a second goal.
Johnny Rehill cut along the touchline and squared for the racing Paddy Cassidy to fist home.
Dungiven hit back immediately through a Richie Mullan free and gradually began to work at closing the gap
A 39th minute Cahir Higgins free left just one between the sides and when a 44th minute Richie Mullan free levelled matters, the stage was set for a tense final ten minutes.
Enniskillen’s Brandon Horan rattled the post from range as his side looked to make their patient build-up count, but with extra time looming, St Canice’s found a winner.
Feargal Higgins collected the ball in the full-forward line, held off his marker and squeezed over a right-footed effort on 60 minutes almost from the end line.
Conor Kelly fired over the insurance point on the stroke of the final whistle and ensured Dungiven’s progress to an intriguing semi-final meeting with St Eunan’s of Letterkenny.
This was the first game in the tournament played away from Creggan and both sides deserve credit for producing an exciting battle in difficult conditions.
ST CANICE’S: Cahir Hasson, Eoin McKeever, Thomas McClarey, Niall McNicholl, Darragh McGilligan, Sean McKeever, Conor McKelvey, Feargal Higgins (0-02), Daire McKeever, Pauric McNicholl, Richie Mullan (0-03f), John Mullan, Fintan Murphy (0-01), Conor Kelly (0-01), Cahir Higgins (0-03f).
SUBS: Odhran McKeever for Darragh McGiilgan (53), Seamus Higgins for Cahir Higgins (54)
RED CARDS: Daire McKeever (18)
ENNISKILLEN GAELS: Cian Newman, Josh Horan, Aaron Nolan, Paddy Cassidy (1-00), Ryan McDonnell, Johnny Cassidy (0-01), Ronan Beattie, Eoin Beacom (0-01), Brandon Horan, Timmy Boyd, Conal Quinn, John Rehill, Conor Love (1-00), Conor Murphy, Matthew Dixon.
SUBS: Matthew McAleer for Matthew Dixon (45), James O’Donnell for Timmy Boyd (51).
YELLOW CARDS: Aaron Nolan (23), Matthew Dixon (33), Eoin Beacom (61)
REFEREE: Eamonn McAuley (Antrim)