St Naul’s are on the trail of another county championship title -the clubs third in four weeks - when they go head to head with Letterkenny Gael’s this afternoon in the U-21B final in Ballybofey. (Throw in 2pm).
And having already bagged the Intermediate and Division Two minor championship, Letterkenny Gaels stand between them and a historic treble for the Mountcharles based club. Like the Intermediate team, the U-21B side is managed by Brian McCabe. He has John Rose, Barry Griffin, Fiachra McGinley and Stuart Johnston from the Intermediate team along with up to 10 of the successful minor team available - Jamie White, James Flynn, Lee McBrearty, Conor McGowan, Brian McDaid, Enda Kenny, Martin Gillespie, and Gary Blaine along with Rose and Griffin.
These are hectic times for McCabe and St Naul’s, who are also firmed fixed on making one of the two promotion places at the top of the Division Three League table. With five games still to play, this is very much a realistic option. The only down side is that this weekend the seniors have a must win game on Saturday, at home to Downings.
“It is not the best situation to be in,” McCabe said. “But we are just going to have to get on with it. Promotion is very much our target now for the seniors and that means we are going to have to win our five remaining games which leaves us with no option but to play some of the U-21s on Saturday. It’s not ideal but we are going to have to juggle things around a little because the U-21B is important to us too.”
Midfielder Fiachra McGinley, who picked up a knock against Cullaville in the Ulster Intermediate championship, is McCabe’s only injury concern.
St. Naul’s have played three games on their way to the final and except for Carndonagh in the semi-final, who ran them to two points, they had it pretty handy in their other two games as the defeated both Naomh Columba and Robert Emmet’s pretty comfortably. Letterkenny Gaels are in the final on the back of wins over big wins over Naomh Padraig from Lifford and Milford and with a return of 4-27 from two games they look a pretty potent force.
Manager Michael O’Connor, who also doubles as the Gaels senior manager has the bulk of the team that won an U-16 championship five seasons ago and were beaten in the Minor B final two seasons later. They defeated Naomh Mhuire by a point in the U-16 final and lost the minor final narrowly to Naomh Ultan.
“We have a good few of those teams still playing,” O’Connor said. “Oisin Cannon, James McGlynn, Darren Hunter, Kevin Kilkenny, Aaron Bradley, Mickey Harte and Gerard Gibbons were on both teams as was Jamie Doherty, but Jamie has not played much this year as he has been struggling with injury.
“Things have gone well for us in both our games to date and we won both games pretty handy and we know that St Naul’s are a big step up. But we are looking forward to the final. Most of our lads have experience playing with the seniors and 12 of Sunday’s team played this year in the junior championship. It is a matter now of going out and giving it our best shot and hoping everything goes right on the day.”
With the exception of Doherty, Letterkenny Gaels have no injury worries and the team is not expected to be altered greatly from that which defeated Milford in the semi-final.
St Naul’s panel: Gary Blaine, Emmett Blaine, Brendan Breen, Jonathan Carr, James Flynn, Kevin Gallagher, Declan Gallagher, Martin Gillespie, Barry Griffin, Stuart Johnston, Lee McBrearty, John McBrearty, Brian McDaid, Shane McDevitt, Glenn McDyre, Fiachra McGinley, Conor McGowan, Pauric McHugh, Alex McNelis, Brian Mulhern, Michael Quinn, John Rose, Jamie White.
Letterkenny Gael’s panel: Ethan Mulrennan, Cillian Skinnader,Kevin Kilkenny, Ciaran Lynch, Luke Skinnader, Darren Hunter, Mickey Harte, Sean Crossan, Ciaran Cannon, Oisín Cannon, Aaron Bradley, Liam Doherty, Noel Gildea, Colm O’Breslin, John Doran, Kevin Doran, Oisín McElhinney, Conor McBrearty, Gerard Gibbons, Jamie Doherty, James Mc Glynn, Andrew Coll, Keelan Boyce, Odhran McMacken.
Paths to the final
Tuesday, July 19 - Gerard Gallagher Memorial Park
St. Naul’s 3-11
Naomh Columba 0-8
Tuesday, August 30 - Gerard Gallagher Memorial Park
St Naul’s 2-12
Robert Emmet’s 1-5
Saturday, September 19 - Convoy
St. Naul’s 1-12
Tuesday, August 30 - The Glebe
Letterkenny Gaels 1-13
Naomh Padraig (Lifford) 0-7
Tuesday, September 6 - Moyle View Park, Milford
Letterkenny Gaels 3-14