In more ways than one, St Eunan’s teak tough centre-back Eamonn Doherty is a true man in the middle.
For, since 2007, when he was a mere 17 years of age, Doherty won a county title along with the great Brendan Devenney, John Haran and Co.
Ever since, he has occupied a central role in the Letterkenny defence alternating between full back and centre back.
One thing is certain; the soft-spoken Donegal county defender will always be at the heart of the battle.
But he is also a vital midway link between two very important and distinct groups in this highly successful St Eunan’s side who have won a highly impressive five of the last eight county titles since Doherty’s first gong in 2007.
At 25 Doherty is the link between St Eunan’s four feisty 30 Somethings. John Haran, Rory Kavanagh, Kevin Rafferty and Conall Dunne are all over 30 while Darragh Mulgrew, Conor Parke, Conor Morrison, Rory Carr, Conor Gibbons, Sean McVeigh and ice cool Lee McMonagle are all under the age of 23.
And this deadly combination of vast experience and exuberant and confident youth has propelled the Letterkenny lads to a very impressive victory in last year’s county final.
It is press night in the Villa Rose Hotel, Ballybofey and Doherty is looking forward to adding yet another gong to his collection.
He admits there is an added spice with this year’s opponents Naomh Conaill that has built up in recent years.
“Of course we have a local rivalry with Glenswilly but Glenties have always been giving us a hard time ever since I first came on the scene in 2007.
“My first ever championship game was against Glenties in the first round and we went on to win the title.
‘We met them again in the 2009 final and again in 2012.
“But those teams are fairly different so that does not mean anything today.
“In 2012 we got a goal from Lee McMonagle against the run of play and a lucky ‘45’ which Mark McGowan converted”.
But Glenties have a few elder statesmen who were a key part of their first ever victory in 2005 and could play key roles again, as Doherty admits;
“That was a golden era for Glenties as five or six of them were on the All-Ireland winning squad of 2012.
“And another three or four of them were on the All-Ireland Under 21 squad of 2010, so they are the same bunch of very good, experienced players”.
But Eamon’s club has some vast experience also.
“We are lucky to have players like John, Rory, Kevin and Conal.
“Rory played his first final in 2000 and John Haran has been around since 1997.
“You just can’t buy that kind of experience and they still come to training every night very hungry and set the tone for the rest of us.
“The bulk of this Eunan’s team has come from good underage teams in the club.
“I am one of the older guys but it is a credit to the local schools also.
“Conor Parke just keeps on giving and you just never know what he is going to do next.
“He is grabbing goals and then popping up with blocks.
“Unfortunately Darragh Mulgrew might not make it after an unfortunate injury picked up while playing against Glenswilly but we are pretty much at full strength otherwise.
When asked where the greatest threat will come from Glenties, he does not hesitate.
“When you look at their forward line, they are the top scorers in the county.
“And they have new county panellist Ciaran Thompson in the middle of the field.
“I know him from the county set up this year and he is a great footballer, lovely hands and everything you want in a midfielder.
“And their forward line gave us a really bad time in the championship in terrible conditions early on this year in O’Donnell Park.
“Their running game and their kicking game was very good and as a defender it is my job to stop them.
“We struggled against them that evening but we have Rory Kavanagh back to win possession for us”.
When asked if Eunan’s can win it, he gives a heavily qualified Yes.
“Yes we can but Glenties will be saying the same thing too. It will be tight because both teams won’t want to lose.
“It could come to whoever gets a small break and that is how fine the margins can be in matches like these.
There is one thing that everyone agrees about ahead to this tasty decider. And that is that the two very best teams are contesting this year’s final.