Cloughaneely this Sunday stand in the way of Naomh Conaill as they aim for a place in a seventh successive Centra Supermarkets County U-21 championship final.
It’s a remarkable record for the side who play at Davy Brennan Memorial Park in Glenties. The team took home the title in 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2010, as well as losing the showpieces to St Michael’s in 2009 and Kilcar last season.
Naomh Conaill stand on a familiar doorstep after a reasonably unconvincing outing last Saturday evening against Letterkenny Gaels in Convoy.
Connie Doherty’s side seemed to be cruising at the interval, 0-5 to 0-1 up, and when Dermot Molloy scored his fourth of five, the margin was 0-9 to 0-3 with seven minutes remaining.
Already minus the services of James Doherty, who was given a straight red card by referee Paddy McKeever for an altercation with Mickey Harte 10 or so minutes into the second half, 14-man Naomh Conaill almost imploded. Two quick goals from Conor McBrearty and Ciaran Lynch brought Gaels level, only for Molloy to point a late winner, 0-10 to 2-3.
In the competition before that, Naomh Conaill got past Bundoran and then Ardara, 2-15 to 1-4, in a replayed first round tie. Jamie McHugh scored two goals and Molloy posted eight points that day.
“After a lot of delays, the matches are now coming in this championship thick and fast,” Connie Doherty, who is in his second season at the helm at Naomh Conaill, said. “We weren’t great last weekend against Letterkenny Gaels. We played alright in little bits but were left grasping a bit at the end.”
Come Sunday, Naomh Conaill will be without the suspended Doherty, after his sending off in Convoy. As well as that, there’s the absence of the long-termers - Jamie Gallagher has a cruciate injury and Ciaran Brennan’s broken ankle means he will play no part.
However, the likes of Molloy, John O’Malley, Cathal Ellis and Ciaran Thompson’s experience at senior level will certainly stand to the U-21 panel.
“We’ve a lot of other knocks but with a lot of the lads in college in Dublin they’ll be training at UCD or DCU and we’lll not know till Friday how they are,” Connie Doherty continued. “Cloughaneely are a good side and we saw them run Kilcar so close in the county minor semi-final and they won the senior reserve championship this year.”
Cloughaneely have been dormant in the competition since the end of summer. In July they got off and running with a 1-12 to 1-10 win in Malin before they defeated neighbours Milford 4-13 to 1-10 in August.
“It’s hard to keep the momentum and the interest going,” manager Joe McGarvey said. “We’ve found it hard to get some collective training and a lot of the lads are playing soccer now at the weekends. Naomh Conaill would be favourites now as they’ve played a couple of games in the last two weeks, while we’ve not had a match in a long time.”
McGarvey will be without cruciate victims Darren McKeever and Christopher McFadden, while John Fitzgerald is suffering with a jaw injury since Cloughaneely’s one-point minor semi-final loss against Kilcar the weekend before last.
Only McKeever and Seosamh Ferry are overage for next year, so Cloughaneely are far from outsiders, especially with county U-21 panellists Kevin McFadden, John McGarvey and Shaun McGarvey. Aside that, the likes of John Harley, Cian McFadden and Shaun McFadden are useful additions.
“Naomh Conaill going for a seventh successive final really is some achievement,” Joe McGarvey added. “You have to hand it to them for that but we’ve a panel here that will, bar one or two, be in place again next year so we’ll see how it goes now at the weekend.”
Minor A Football final
Kilcar v St Eunans Kieran McShea, MacCumhaill Park
Brian McCormick Sports Division One relegation play-off
Gaoth Dobhair v Glenswilly Jimmy White, O’Donnell Park. Extra time. Linesmen: P McGonigle/P McKeever.
Centra Supermarkets Division 3
Buncrana v Termon,
Centra Supermarkets Division 3
Buncrana v Termon John Friel
Centra Supermarkets U-21A Football Championship semi-final
Naomh Conaill v Cloughaneely Martin Coll, O’Donnell Park, 12:30, Extra-time. Linesmen: P McGonigle/P McKeever.