Gaoth Dobhair’s tradition or the more recent progress of Glenswilly count for little as one or the other will fall through the trapdoor of relegation from the All-County Division One this season.
Who that is might be decided after the last round of fixtures but if one can better the other’s outcome this Sunday they will be at least granted a stay of execution with Dungloe already confirmed as the opposition for the gangling relegation play-off. If Gaoth Dobhair and Glenswilly match each others’ result, then they will meet to see who gets into the play-off.
Declan Bonner’s Dungloe side also have a participative role this weekend as they visit a Glenswilly outfit whose championship reign they ended last month. Simultaneously, just four miles in the road at O’Donnell Park, Gaoth Dobhair fight for their lives against a St Eunan’s team that have already won the league and championship ahead of this, their last outing of the season. They will be presented with the league trophy afterwards.
Both Glenswilly and Gaoth Dobhair are marooned joint-bottom of the table, having picked up just seven points apiece all season. Dungloe are third-bottom on 12 points and their place in the play-off was confirmed after Ardara’s 2-4 to 0-7 win over St Eunan’s at Pearse Park last Saturday.
Glenswilly won the senior championship just 13 months ago and they have been part of the top flight on the local scene since they won Division Two on St Stephen’s Day, 2007. However, now in their fifth successive season in Division One, Glenswilly have come out of the play-off scenario in three of the last four seasons.
Only in 2010 did they have relative comfort, having defeated Gaoth Dobhair in a 2008 play-off, come through a five-way scenario to beat Kilcar to safety a year afterwards. Last term Gary McDaid and John McGinley’s team had too much for Malin.
Their successor Manus McFadden has suffered with the enforced absence of Neil Gallagher and Michael Murphy for prolonged periods all season. Donegal’s All-Ireland winning captain made his first club appearance of the campaign, scoring nine points, at Magheragallon against Gaoth Dobhair in August.
Murphy is unlikely to feature having hobbled off in the All-Stars match at Gaelic Park in New York last Saturday with a recurrence of a toe injury he’s been carrying since the All-Ireland final, although manager McFadden does expect to have Neil Gallagher back in the fold.
“I would doubt Michael will be available but bar that we hope to have a clean bill of health,” McFadden said. “But it’s a disgrace being in the situation we’re in now with this league. We had five games played at the end of April and now we’re in a situation in late November when we might have up to three games still to play.
“St Eunan’s have an U-21 fixture against Kilcar on Saturday and then the powers that be have forced their seniors to line out 24 hours later. It seems that whoever makes the fixtures now just want to get this thing over. But we’ve been training all year and are still out training in the middle of November ahead of our most important games of the year. It just doesn’t add up.”
With 14 senior county championships, Gaoth Dobhair remain the most successful side in the county. However, their last league success came in the same year they most recently won the championship, in 2006.
After a brief interlude in Division Two in 2009, Gaoth Dobhair’s most recent successes have come in the Comórtas Peile na Gaeltachta, where they won the national event in June.
Gaoth Dobhair have been missing the McGee brothers Neil and Eamon rather frequently, while Kevin Cassidy spent the summer in the United States. Neil McGee and Cassidy have just returned from the All-Star trip, while Peter McGee is in Australia for the coming weeks. Noel Kelly, Cathal and Paul Mulligan are injured,
Seven successive defeat meant the three-man team of Alan Boyd, Martin Boyle and Tom Beag Gillespie have been fighting an uphill fight all season. However, they still have a chance of survival.
“We’ve not played a league game since mid-August and have only trained once, last Saturday, since we were knocked out of the championship by Glenswilly in early October,” Boyd said. “Even at that, there was only half a panel at training with so many lads away at college.
“There were disruptions with the county team, which was a welcome disruption of course, but to the detriment of the league. We feel as though we’ve been dealt a bad hand in regards the fixtures. Look, we had some horrendous injuries at the start of the campaign and we’re up against it now.”
The other fixture in the All-County Football League Division One takes place on Sunday in Towney as Kilcar welcome Naomh Conaill. The fixture was postponed last Saturday with a water-logged pitch.
Meanwhile, the Centra Supermarkets U-21A Football Championship resumes on Saturday afternoon with St Eunan’s entertaining Kilcar at O’Donnell Park with St Michael’s waiting in the semi-final. Naomh Conaill face Letterkenny Gaels at Sean MacCumhaill Park and the winners of that particular tie will take on Cloughaneely in the last four.