McGrath a huge blow to Ardara’s chances

McGrath a huge blow to Ardara’s chances
Ardara and Gaoth Dobhair are another of the two teams that fit into the outsider category in the Donegal senior championship race.

Ardara and Gaoth Dobhair are another of the two teams that fit into the outsider category in the Donegal senior championship race.

They meet in the last of the quarter-finals on Sunday evening in O’Donnell Park.

Division One survival has to be the number one priority both in Pearse Park and Maghergallon. Yet, both clubs have proud championship traditions and Adrian Brennan in Ardara and Tom ‘Beag’ Gillespie in Gaoth Dobhair insisted this week their total focus is on the championship and making it through to the last four.

“It has been a difficult league campaign so far but we are battling for survival and we will do right to the last game. Division One is a very strong division and if you lose a few games you are under pressure and that is where we find ourselves,” said Ardara manager Adrian Brennan.

Brennan’s cause has not been helped by the fact that they suffered more than their fair share of injuries in the course of the year.

They were without their county ace Paddy McGrath for a large portion of the season due to both injury and county commitments.

“Paddy has been a huge loss to us and not only for his football ability but for his leadership on the field and the way he lifts those around him with his presence on the field.”

McGrath is definitely out of the reckoning with a long term groin injury. Brennan also admitted he is sweating on the fitness of Brendan Boyle, who is on the treatement table this week.

“Brendan damaged ligaments against Four Masters in the league and is struggling to be fit. But we are hopeful that he will make it.

“Otherwise, bar someone picking up a knock between now and Sunday, we have everybody else. Stephen Red (McHugh) is due back from holidays on Wednesday and the rest of the lads are fully fit and looking forward to the game.”

Gaoth Dobhair have been boosted by the return of Kevin Cassidy. The double All-Star, who spent the summer in the US, played in last Sunday’s one point win over Naomh Conaill in Magheragallon.

However, worringly in that game Neil McGee was forced out of the game with a slight hamstring twinge.

“Neil is a concern, because Neil doesn’t usually come off unless something is wrong with him. He is having treatment and hopefully he will be fit. Neil is a huge player for us, ” said Tom ‘Beag’ Gillespie.

While the All-Ireland Gaeltacht champions have been boosted by the return of Cassidy, the loss through emigration of Danny Curran and James Carroll has been a blow. Both Curran and Carroll departed to Addis Ababa a couple of weeks ago.

Gaoth Dobhair, who are third from the bottom of Division One, go into the game on the back of a three game unbeaten run.

That run includes wins over Four Masters and Naomh Conaill and a draw with Malin.

The teams have met once this season with Gaoth Dobhair claiming both points with a comfortable 0-16 to 0-6 league victory in Magheragallon.

“We are not reading an awful lot into that result. They were short a number of players that evening and we are expecting to face a much stronger Ardara outfit on Sunday evening.

“There is very little between the teams. It is a 50/50 game and that is how we see it. Ardara are a good championship team and they are great battlers.”

Adrian Brennan agrees that the two teams are pretty evenly matched and the Ardara boss insists they are going to O’Donnell Park to win.

Without their inspirational leader and Brendan Boyle struggling with injury, it would seem a tall order for Brennan and Ardara.

If they are to prevail, Declan Gavigan, Matthew Maher, Kenneth Doherty, Brendan McNelis, Stephen McHugh and Gareth Concarr are going to have to bring their A game to O’Donnell Park.

While much hinges on the fitness of Neil McGee, the return of Kevin Cassidy and with Eamon McGee and Odhran MacNiallais, Gaoth Dobhair may have that little extra firepower.

Verdict: Gaoth Dobhair