Four years have now passed since Glenswilly relegated Gaoth Dobhair in an end of season play-off and on Sunday one or the other will fall through the trap-door of the All-County League Division One.
However, unlike that meeting in Convoy in late 2008, this time the winner isn’t guaranteed survival, as it’s only a stay of execution as third-bottom Dungloe still await in the relegation play-off a week later. All that will be decided for definite at O’Donnell Park is who will go straight down as the table-croppers.
Glenswilly have managed a Harry Houdini act or two since winning the All-County League Division Two, coming out of relegation play-offs in three of their four seasons in the top-flight.
The first of them, 2008, saw the 1-8 to 0-8 win over a Gaoth Dobhair side that actually led 0-4 to 0-0 after just 12 minutes that crisp November afternoon. Gaoth Dobhair were promoted from Division Two as champions the following season but the team under the joint-management of Alan Boyd, Martin Boyle and Tom Beag Gillespie has slipped from the powerful side of 2006, who were league and championship winners, to one in transition.
This is the fifth meeting of the teams this season, with Glenswilly winning both at home and away in the championship first round, while Gaoth Dobhair won at Pairc Naomh Columba against their understrength hosts and the Magheragallon match was drawn.
With little room to manoeuvre last weekend, both Glenswilly and Gaoth Dobhair got the results they required to keep their heads above water. Their league form was poor for the most part, collecting just nine points apiece from their 16 matches, but they pulled out important results when they had to.
Glenswilly’s match started on time at Foxhall, with an Ulster ladies minor club championship meeting of St Eunan’s against Fermanagh’s Kinawley overrunning slightly at O’Donnell Park.
So by the time Ian Molloy threw the ball into the foggy sky in Letterkenny, Glenswilly has already built themselves a solid platform after Brian Farrelly’s goal on three minutes.
Glenswilly, with Oisin Crawford adding another goal and Ciaran Bonner chipping in with six points, went onto win comfortably, 2-13 to 1-9. Meanwhile, back in Letterkenny St Eunan’s had three Conor Gibbons’ points on the spin to help them manufacture a 0-7 to 0-4 lead as the second half started to take shape.
However, Tomás Diver scored 1-2 in seven minutes, with the goal being the one decisive move in the whole match and Gaoth Dobhair ran out two-point winners, 1-7 to 0-8, against the league and championship winners.
“It was looking bad for us for a while,” said joint-manager Boyd. “We hadn’t played a league game since August but the game turned on the goal that Tómas scored. It was very important but we’ll need to be at that level from the very start against Glenswilly.”
Gaoth Dobhair will have the same panel this week as last. Cathal and Paul Mulligan are injured, while Peter McGee is travelling and Ronan MacNiallais is unavailable.
All eyes will be on Glenswilly and whether or not Michael Murphy will play. Murphy hobbled off in the All-Stars match in New York with a toe injury earlier this month. The Donegal captain’s availability would be a huge boost to Glenswilly manager Manus McFadden.
“If we really needed Michael last weekend we could’ve had him tog but it was good to get through the game without him,” McFadden said. “He could’ve ran in straight lines but he’s on the mend in any case. We’re probably going to be without Oisin Crawford, who broke a finger a training on Tuesday night and that would be a blow.
“We played well last weekend, particularly in the first half but we’ll have to do the same against a Gweedore team we managed to put out of the championship this year.”