For a number of Donegal’s top clubs this Saturday is D-Day when it comes to their club championship ambitions for 2013.
Among the clubs facing long hot summers are two of the county’s heavyweights Glenswilly and St. Michael’s, while other big guns that are teetering on the edge of the precipice too are Naomh Conaill and Four Masters.
For our preview former Donegal star Damian Diver runs the rule over the four groups and gives his predictions.
St. Michael’s and Glenswilly meet in Dunfanaghy and come 9 o’clock on Saturday night one of them will be gone - out of the 2013 RTE Raidio Na Gaeltachta Championship race!
Of the 16 teams facing into the weekend’s games only hot favourites St. Eunan’s and great championship traditionalists, Kilcar, are sure of playing championship football when August comes around, and the quarter-finals.
For 12 of the clubs this Saturday night is the final throw of the dice while for Gaoth Dobhair, Dungloe, Killybegs and Termon, in Group 3, they are only playing their second round of games. Their final round is pencilled in for the following weekend.
“It is a big weekend for a number of the big clubs alright with either St. Michael’s or Glenswilly, two of the favourites, out of the championship by Saturday night,” said Damien Diver.
“There are a number of others, too, that are not out of the woods with Naomh Conaill also in a spot of bother. And while my own club, Ardara, top their group, we haven’t the quarter-final place nailed down for sure and Four Masters are another side that are also sweating going into their game with Glenfin, on Saturday night.
St. Eunan’s v Naomh Conaill
St. Eunan’s, with two wins, have already qualified for the last eight. But they have lost Caolan Ward to US in recent weeks having seen Conor Gibbons and Conal McGinley depart for a summer in Philadelphia, following the opening win over Malin.
Naomh Conaill drew last time out against Malin having defeated Cloughaneely in the first round. They have been struggling with their form this season and have had their fair share of injuries. They will be without veteran midfielder Johnny McLoone for Saturday night’s O’Donnell Park clash. “It all really depends how St.Eunan’s approach the game, given that they have already qualified for the quarter-final. But I think the rivalry is such between the two clubs that I suspect they will be up for it,” said Damien Diver.
“I still fancy Naomh Conaill. They have a good record in O’Donnell Park and given that they need a at least a draw from the game they will be more fired up and with the Brick Molloy, Leon Thompson and Darragh Gallagher in attack, I feel they have the firepower to get the result they want.”
Verdict: Naomh Conaill
Malin v Cloughaneely
Malin, following their draw with Naomh Conaill at home last time out, will have targeted the two points from the visit of Cloughaneely. Declan Walsh and company are having a good solid league campaign while Cloughaneely are having an up and down season so far in Division Two.
With a 13 point differential between Naomh Conaill and Malin, the Inishowen men need to win this game by a sizeable margin and Naomh Conaill lose to St. Eunan’s if they are to advance to the last eight.
“Malin are having a good season and are a tough nut to crack at home. They should win this one and win well because of the points differential between themselves and Naomh Conaill,” said Damien Diver.
Ardara v Sean MacCumhaill’s
Ardara, with two wins from two games, are the form team in this group and they have have reserved their best form for the championship. It is no coincidence that their improved form has coincided with the return to fitness of Brendan Boyle and Stephen ‘Red’ McHugh. MacCumhaill’s lost narrowly to Four Masters, last time out, after putting Glenfin to the sword in the first round.
“It is a novel pairing. The teams have not met since the 2004 county final. MacCumhaill’s had a good win over Glenfin and really put it up to Four Masters the last day so I expect them to give Ardara a run for their money.”
Four Masters v Glenfin
This is a must-win game for Four Masters or else they could also find themselves among the also-rans. As things stand Masters are on equal points with Sean MacCumhaill’s, but the Finn Valley men hold a 13 point score difference advantage.
Masters will once again be without county ace Karl Lacey, still on the injured list. Glenfin are sweating on the fitness of Frank McGlynn, concussed from last weekend’s Donegal versus Down game and Francie Martin is planning this week without the vastly experienced Mark McGinty (Senior) with a broken leg. Glenfin still have an outside chance, but it is a remote one.
“Both these sides have been badly hit with injuries this season and have not been at their best. With the game in Tir Chonaill Park and Four Masters having more to play for than Glenfin, I fancy Four Masters to win. Glenfin have nothing to play for but pride.”
Verdict: Four Masters