Donegal League Premier Division champions Gweedore Celtic had an excellent 2011 but have a tough start to the New Year against Carrick United in the fifth round of the FAI Junior Cup at Coolnamuck, Co Tipperary, on Sunday (12 noon).
Last year saw Hughie Rua Gallagher’s side defeated only twice. The last time they lost in the league was exactly 12 months ago at home against Kilmacrennan Celtic when Philip Buchanan netted a last minute winner before a surprise reversal at Lifford Celtic’s hands in the Knockalla Caravans Cup in May.
This term, Gallagher’s team are seven points clear of Milford United having won all but two of their 10 outings in the league. They travel to Waterford, where they will spend Saturday night, knowing Mickey Curran, who has ligament damage since October, and Paul Rua Mc Bride, the sufferer of a broken bone in his foot a month beforehand, will be unavailable through injury.
Eamon Cannon, last season’s captain, has re-signed for the club and will have a huge influence between now and the end of the season, although he will have no involvement in the FAI Junior Cup as he is cup-tied having played for Fanad United in the FAI Intermediate Cup already.
“It’s disappointing to be missing a few lads but that’s what you have a playing squad for and at the minute we’ve almost two players for each position,” said manager Gallagher.
“We’ve brought Eamon back to the club, although he’s not eligible this weekend. Aside that, we only brought in Fionnan Diver from Gweedore United and young David Ward from Dungloe at the start of the season.”
Last month, Gweedore came from behind to defeat Castlefin Celtic in the FAI Junior Cup by four goals to two thanks to two goals from Odhran MacNiallais, with Fionnan and Tomas Diver also on target. In the previous round Ramelton Mariners were brushed aside 8-0 with Tomas Diver and Colin Ferry both grabbing hat-tricks.
“The main difference between this year and last is that we’re scoring a lot more goals,” Gallagher continued. “Tomas Diver has 35 in all competitions this season and that’s unbelievable. He’s playing well but so too are the lads at the back so we’re happy with how things are going so far.”
Gweedore’s fine history is well documented but even their excellent side of the late seventies and early eighties never really set the FAI Junior Cup alight, when there was just a regional final to decide the one Donegal entrant.
To date, Gweedore’s best run in the competition was their last 32 appearance in 1995, where they lost out to Calry Bohs from Sligo, so a win on Sunday afternoon would take them back to that stage again.
Carrick United, from the Tipperary town of Carrick-on Suir, play their football in the Waterford and District Junior League. They were winners of the FAI Junior Cup in 2007/8 and runners-up in 2003/4. Last season they got the better of Lagan Harps by a single goal.
They became only the second junior team to lift the coveted Munster Senior Cup when defeating League of Ireland side Limerick FC 1-0 in the final in May.
Carrick lost the Munster Junior Cup Final to fellow Tipperary side St Michael’s FC but bounced back by lifting their ninth Waterford Premier League title in 12 years.
“I’ve spoke to Jason Gibson, who was in charge with Lagan last season, and Carrick are a very good side,” Gallagher continued. “But it’s great to be pitting yourself against these sort of teams and we’ve nothing to fear. I really believe that, on our day, we are one of the best teams in the country so we’ll be giving it everything on Sunday.”
The winners of Sunday’s tie have been drawn away to the winners of Claremorris from Mayo and Sligo’s Ballymote in the sixth round. The Donegal League’s other side in the competition, Milford United, welcome Athenry from Galway next weekend.