Erne Wanderers and Fintown Harps both have ambitions to keep their forward trajectory going in Saturday’s Downtown Cup final at Donegal Town’s Hospital Field (kick-off 2pm).
The Ballyshannon side were this season crowned Old Orchard Inn Division One winners. Fintown Harps, on the other hand, finished this season in third place in the top-flight having won the Glencar Inn Division One 12 months ago.
Seven years ago, Erne won the Downtown Cup – their second success having previously lifted the trophy in 1998 – but that was to mark the beginning of their sabbatical from the Donegal League.
However, in their three years since returning, the team managed by Alan Dorrian have meandered to the top of the Saturday charts.
“We’ve trained straight through but it’s hard to get that real competitiveness at training,” he said of the four-week lay-off since the semi-final.
“The one thing about the break since the semi-final that has benefitted us is that it means Michael ‘Sticky’ Ward is available after suffering a quad muscle injury. He’s managed to get a couple of Gaelic match under his belt with Aodh Ruadh.
“At Christmas we lost three players to emigration - Barry Mulligan and Michael Dolan are in Australia and PJ McGee is in England.
“We brought in Peter McGonigle and Sean Toland, who is a native of Wicklow and lives in Bundoran and works in surfing.
Dorrian will give McGonigle time to recover from a shoulder injury and, that aside, expects to have a full quote available against a team who have impressed him this season in the league. Erne won 2-1 against Fintown at the Lakeside Centre and then the teams shared the points in a 1-1 Pairc Acla draw.
“For me, Fintown Harps were unlucky and could’ve come even closer to us in the league than they did,” Dorrian added.
“They are a strong side at the back with lively players like Aaron Thompson and Dara Gallagher up front. There are no clear favourites for me as it’s a 50-50. It’s all on the day really.”
Erne were defeated once in the group stage of the competition by Glenea United but spectacularly turned that around to beat the same team 5-1 with the goals coming from McGonigle, Mark Dorrian, Diarmuid Spratt and a David Dolan brace.
Fintown have never won the competition in their 10-year history but last season’s Division Two title has shown Paddy Molloy’s team have the heart for the battle.
They’re the only unbeaten side in the competition and beat Donegal Town 2-1 in the semi-final, with goals from their front pairing of Gallagher and Thompson.
“It’s our first ever cup final so we are hoping the experience of winning Division Two last season might stand to us against a very good Erne Wanderers team,” manager Molloy said. “We’re 10 years in existence and I’ve been involved either as a manager, assistant manager to Mark Boyle or a player. ”
“We’ve lost Stephen Molloy. He cracked a bone in his ankle and is only due to get his plaster off this week.
“Raymond McMenamin has been having bother with his hamstring but has been doing a bit with physio and should be back training later in the week. Shaun McMillan broke his ankle early in the season but is back.
“Fintown is in the heart of GAA country and it’s an achievement in itself to even make a cup final. There’s a great excitement in the area. Most teams concentrate on the league but we always try and give the cup the respect it deserves as well. For me, this is like an All-Ireland final.”