In their aftermatch comments the St Eunan’s manager Maxi Curran and man of the match John Haran both suggested that this was a great victory because of the way many people had written off this team at the start of the year. I am not sure who was doing the writing off or whether it was a bit of psychology by the manager and his older lads to bring the rest of the team together as a unit but it certainly worked.
St Eunan’s reminded me a lot of the way Donegal approached Dublin in this year’s All-Ireland semi-final. They never panicked when they missed a few chances; they were composed on the ball and they kept to the match plan that was worked on since their victory over St Michael’s in the semi-final.
We were all fairly sure that Glenswilly would not change the way they approach every game. They have three marquee players; they work extremely hard to close down the opposition and they never give up. That’s why they have been county champions twice in the last four years.
In last year’s final they killed of Killybegs with goals. They never got those openings last Sunday. The only chance they had was a high ball in to the edge of the square with the hope that maybe Michael Murphy, Neil Gallagher or Ciaran Bonner might get a touch on it. While St Eunan’s were guilty of squandering a number of what might be considered easy point chances, Glenswilly struggled to find space to make those opportunities and the fact they only scored one point from play in the entire match showed how well prepared the Letterkenny men were.
Last week I suggested that if Eunan’s could keep Michael Murphy quiet they would get over the line. While I would never suggest that Glenswilly were a one-man outfit their dependence on Murphy for scores was definitely singled out by the St Eunan’s management and players because every time he went for a ball, whether it was close to the Eunan’s goal or indeed in the middle of the field, the Eunan’s players closed down the space very quickly and gave him no room to play.
In the same way they closed down Gary McFadden and Neil Gallagher especially if they came close to the Eunan’s goal. To be fair to this year’s county champions they left nothing to chance. They did their homework and kept working the ball patiently over and back the field until the opportunity arose for them to have chance of a score and to be fair to the Glenswilly defence they allowed very few if any goal chances but if you were told before any match, especially a county final, that you would only concede nine points you would have felt you would have a chance.
Maxi Curran has done a brilliant job looking after Eunan’s this year. All through the league he used it as a stepping stone for many of the younger lads giving them vital playing time, plus he would also require his players to be able to break down the dreaded blanket defence which is employed by most clubs these days.
He would have been under pressure when maybe the league results were not all they should have been but would also have been experienced enough to know that when it comes down to it, it’s the championship that really counts.
The Glenswilly players will now have a bit of time to recharge the batteries. You don’t become a bad team just because you lose in a final. It’s not easy putting championships together back-to-back. It takes it’s toll on everyone concerned but they were within minutes of being crowned Ulster club winners twelve months ago so I have no doubt they will come back stronger.
For St Eunan’s it’s now their turn to give the Ulster club a series run. There is no doubt they have plenty of strength-in-depth to compete in so many games in such a short space of time. Last Sunday they had some good performances from the likes of Conall Dunne, Rory Kavanagh, Eamonn Doherty and, of course, John Haran who must be considered the ‘Peter Pan’ of Donegal football at this stage. Also the performance of Dara Mulgrew, Conor Gibbons and Sean McVeigh shows that there is plenty of talent coming through the ranks.
Last Sunday was a great success for the county board; a huge crowd attended the game but it lacked something, maybe the fact there weren’t many scores for the supporters to cheer about; maybe the fact it was a cold, wet, grey winter’s day would not have helped or maybe it’s just been a long year for those following club football and playing it.
RORY GALLAGHER installed as new manager
With Rory Gallagher installed as successor to Jim McGuinness it will be interesting to see what the next few months will bring, Rory will assemble his own back oom team and put his plan into action. It is never an easy Job to take on any county team considering the expectations but to take on Donegal at this moment in time will not be a easy job. Regardless of who is in the job the team should still get the support and commitment that it deserves.
The backing that Jim received in the last four years should be afforded to Rory in the same manner and hopefully the success of the last four years can continue for another while at least.