A mouthwatering clash in prospect for county final

Peter Campbell


Peter Campbell

It couldn’t have been scripted better. The two best forwards in the county going head to head to see where the Dr Maguire will rest for the winter of 2011.

It couldn’t have been scripted better. The two best forwards in the county going head to head to see where the Dr Maguire will rest for the winter of 2011.

Colm McFadden and Michael Murphy are just two of the big players who will have something to say about the outcome of Sunday’s Donegal Senior Championship final decider.

For the parish of Doe, it is a truly historic occasion and the red and white have been flying high from Creeslough to Dunfanaghy in recent weeks. They may even seek divine inspiration in Ards in the final hours before the throw-in at 4 p.m. on Sunday.

Getting to a first ever final is special, but it is no surprise for anyone who has been watching the Donegal football scene over the last few years.

The other finalists, Glenswilly, could nearly be regarded as new kids on the block also, having just one decider behind them, defeated by then high-flying St. Eunan’s in 2007. That final probably came a little too early for the Glen men. But four years later it is a different story.

Both sides are there on merit and if you delved a little inside the psyche of both clubs, they would reveal that they should have been there more often in recent years.

Of the two, Glenswilly have had the tougher path; their draw with county champions, Naomh Conaill, in the first game left them in a tricky place, but they won the tactical battle in Glenties, playing big Neil Gallagher and Michael Murphy in a two-man full-forward line and had the game in the bag before Naomh Conaill knew what hit them.

Dispatching St. Eunan’s, albeit after a replay, was no mean feat, while they had just too much power for Kilcar in the semi-final, even if they showed a negative side.

On the other side of the draw, St Michael’s path has been a little smoother, with the clash with Gaoth Dobhair in the quarter-final their biggest test - one which they passed with honours.

Both sides will spent little time on the training field this week, with much of the plotting being done on the blackboard. Glenswilly have to find a way of stopping McFadden, Christy Toye and the McLaughlins, while St Michael’s have to set out their plans for Murphy, Neil Gallagher, Gary ‘Copper’ McFadden and Ciaran Bonner, if he plays.

The participation of Bonner could have a very big bearing on the outcome of Sunday’s game. For many years, defensive frailties were the biggest problem which the Glen men faced, but this year that has changed with a ‘Donegal style’ collective system being used and it has certainly worked.

But to be successful, you need game breakers and Bonner at his best is probably one of the best operators in the county.

There is little to choose between the sides as regards experience with Brian McLaughlin a leading light for St Michael’s while the likes of Gerard McGrenra has seen it all for Glenswilly. Both have had as many bad days at club level as good ones.

For the younger brigade on both sides, it is a big day and one which will test their mettle. Hopefully, we will have a dry sod in Sean MacCumhaill Park which would allow Jimmy White to allow play to flow. When the rain and wind are about, it is always more difficult for the referee and he has to act accordingly. A good dry day allows the good footballer that extra inch of space to display his talents. County final day is the day for the big player.

Looking at the scoring statistics shows that St Michael’s have a greater spread of scorers, but there is no surprise that Murphy and McFadden top their respective lists.

Monaghan man Eamon Ward will probably have the task of looking after McFadden and he will probably have as much assistance as required, while Stephen Doak has been manning the full-back spot for St Michael’s and could have Murphy or Neil Gallagher for company. It is likely that St. Michael’s will also employ reinforcements in this area with Antoin McFadden a likely candidate for a sweeper role.

Which brings me back to Michael Murphy and Colm Anthony McFadden. Everyone is saying that Murphy has had a very quiet year at club level, yet he has hit 2-18 to date in the championship, while McFadden has amassed 1-18, albeit from a game less. Together for much of the year in Donegal, they now face the toughest task of all, facing each other in a shoot-out to see where the Dr. Maguire Cup rests for the winter. Will it take a tour around Horn Head or a shorter journey to the Glen?

It’s not easy to make a choice, but if Ciaran Bonner can play a major part, I have a feeling that it could be Glenswilly’s day.

Verdict: Glenswilly