Michael Murphy is major doubt for Glenswilly as it is back to club action and the quarter-finals of the RTE Raido Na Gaeltachta Senior Football Championship this weekend.
For the second week in-a-row, the spotlight is Murphy and the big question on everybody’s lips is, will he feature for Glenswilly in their crunch last eight meeting with neighbours St. Eunan’s on Sunday afternoon?
The Glenswilly camp have not given up hope on having their talismanic leader for what is a make or break tie for the clubs and their championship ambitions. But with the county skipper still bothered by the hamstring injury that ruled him out of the start of last Saturday night’s high octane All-Ireland quarter-final encounter with Kildare in Croke Park, it is believed he is in a race against the clock to be fit for Sunday’s clash.
While he was introduced in the first half on Saturday night and played the remainder of the game and the two periods of extra-time he was very stiff and sore afterwards. And with Donegal’s All-Ireland semi-final clash with either Tyrone or Dublin just three weeks from this weekend, the danger of Murphy aggravating the injury are pretty high risk. But with the game so important to the club it leaves the player and the club with a serious dilemma. It is one that a final decision may noy be taken on until much later in the week and nearer match time.
The meeting of Glenswilly and St. Eunan’s is one of three quarter-final games down for decision and is the match of the weekend. And while there may be a doubt about Murphy’s participation, there is little or no doubt but the game will mark the return of former county ace and International Rules player Brendan Devenney. If not in the starting team he will be among the St. Eunan’s reserves and looks set to see action at some stage in the game.
The other quarter-finals sees the Karl Lacey and Paul Durcan powered Four Masters play Glenfin with Frank McGlynn on board. In the other clash the Kevin Cassidy, Neil and Eamonn McGee powered Gaoth Dobhair lock horns with the Christy Toye, Colm McFadden, Martin McElhinney and Daniel McLaughlin inspired St. Michael’s. There is also one first round play-off game scheduled with Ardara and Cloughaneely going head to head to decide who faces Kilcar in the next round.
Saturday August 6th - 6.45 pm -
O’Donnell Park - First round play-off
Ardara v Cloughaneely
It’s do or die for Ardara and Cloughaneely when they lock horns on Saturday evening at O’Donnell Park. The game, the third meeting of the sides in the championship this season, is a winner takes all encounter with the prize for the victors a last four meeting with Kilcar.
Ardara won the opening game with a slightly flattering 2-9 to 0-10 winning margin thanks to a late Kevin Byrne goal while Cloughaneely produced a Lazarus like comeback second time out to come from seven points down in the closing quarter hour to force the tie to a third game. Minor ace Shaun McGarvey, who only hours earlier had returned from his holidays, kicked six of the Cloughaneely points to ensure another day out for Joe McGarvey and his men.
Ironically, Ardara scored 2-9 in both games, with Kevin Byrne and Peter McNelis bagging the three pointers the first day with teenager McNelis scoring both goals in the second game. If Ardara were a little flattered with their winning margin first time around they were the better outfit for much of the second game before being hauled back by Cloughaneely.
Injuries to Matthew Maher, Gareth Concarr, Kenneth Doherty and Brendan Boyle (two minutes after coming off the bench), having earlier lost the elusive Martin Shovlin, meant that the men from the south-west were depleted for the closing 15 minutes of that encounter. So much so that they played the closing minutes with just 14 players having used up their full quota of replacements following the injury to Boyle.
“I don’t know what it was; we never got going at all until the last quarter,” said Cloughaneely boss Joe McGarvey. “It was the same last year against St Naul’s in the Intermediate championship; we struggled for long periods and were lucky enough to get through in the end. I don’t know whether it was the fact that we were playing at home and under a little bit of pressure. But we struggled for a long time and Ardara were the better team and we will certainly have to play much better throughout this Saturday evening if we are to have a chance of beating them this time around.”
Michael Lynch (ankle), Kevin McFadden (groin) are both on the treatment table this week in Falcarragh, but McGarvey feels that both men will be fit to take their places on Saturday evening. All of which means with the exception of Denis Ferry, who went over on his ankle in the second leg, McGarvey expects to have a full hand to select from.
The same cannot be said for his opposite number in Ardara, Patrick Gallagher. Gallagher is planning this week to be without Concarr, Thomas Maguire and veteran Damien Diver who are in the injured list. Concarr’s is out with the injury picked up in the last game, Diver is sidelined with a groin strain while Thomas Maguire picked up a hamstring injury at training on Monday night.
“We have been badly hit with injuries alright. Gareth is still in a cast and Damien injured his groin in our last league and then to add to our problems Thomas tore his hamstring at training last night (Monday). The three lads are huge loss and with Conor Classon in America, we are bit stretched at the minute,” Patrick Gallagher told the Democrat.
“But we just have to get on with it and hope for the best. The good news is that we have Paddy McGrath back. Paddy has only played about two games in the league for us and to have him for Saturday is a big boost. It is a make or break game for us and Cloughaneely and if the two games so far are anything to go on it will be a close affair.”
Despite being without key men with Declan Gavigan,Paddy McGrath, Kenneth Doherty in defence and Peter McNelis, Stephen ‘Red’ McHugh and Brendan McNelis showing good form up front, Ardara may still have enough championship craft and experience to see them through to a quarter-final showdown with Kilcar.
Saturday August 6th - 7.30 pm -
Sean MacCumhaill Park
Quarter - final
Four Masters v Glenfin
Four Masters and Glenfin go head to head in the first of the quarter-finals on Saturday evening with Frank McGlynn facing his county colleagues Paul Durcan and Karl Lacey.
Both teams made it through handily enough to the last eight with Four Masters overcoming last season’s Intermediate champions Bundoran in convincing fashion over their two games. Paul Durcan played at full-forward and scored 1-3, Conor McMonagle 1-2 and Stephen Keeney 0-4, in the Masters 2-13 to 0-9 first leg victory over the Stars of the Sea in Bundoran. In the second game, back in Tir Chonaill Park, Durcan posted 0-7 with Michael Doherty scoring the goal as the Masters emerged 1-14 to 0-12 winners.
“We came through handy enough against Bundoran despite having a number of injuries. For a time this season we were really struggling to field, the injuries were so bad. But the break came at a good time and most of them have cleared up though we still have a slight concern with Barry Monaghan. But we expect him to be fine come the weekend. Barry looks after himself and does all the right things,” said team mentor Joyce McMullan.
Meanwhile, Glenfin, who have reserved their best form of the season to the championship, turned in a brilliant display away to Malin to come away with the precious away win in a five goal thriller. Glenfin won that encounter 3-12 to 2-12, with Malachy Martin (2) and Ciaran Moy scoring the goals for Francie Martin’s men.
The Gaeltacht Lar side competed the job in the second leg with four points to spare, 2-10 to 1-9, with Martin scoring one of the goals and the dashing Leigh Herron netting the other.
“The win away to Malin was a big one for us given the history between us in recent years. We played very well that evening and it set us up well for the home game and thankfully we came through that with a few points to spare,” said Glenfin manager Francie Martin.
“Our league form has been poor this year and we are really struggling in the league. But we have played most of our games in the league without Frank McGlynn. Frank is a very important player for us and really we cannot afford to be without him. But we’ve had him for the two championship games and we will have him again on Sunday and when he is in the side he gives the rest of the lads a huge lift.
“Four Masters with Karl Lacey and Paul Durcan playing at full-forward will be favourites, but we like playing in MacCumhaill Park. The wide open spaces should suit us and we are hoping to give a good account of ourselves and pull off something of an upset.”
Mark McGinty junior and Gavin McDermott are struggling with hamstring injuries but are expected to be fit to take their place in the starting line-up.
Despite Glenfin’s good championship form their knack of scoring goals and their ability to put it up to the big guns this one will be a close encounter with Four Masters slightly better all round balance seeing them over the line at the finish.
Verdict: Four Masters.
Sunday August 7th - 3 pm -
Sean MacCumhaill Park
Glenswilly v St. Eunan’s
Brendan Devenney is set to make a dramatic return to the St. Eunan’s colours for Sunday’s match of the day championship meeting of St. Eunan’s and their neighbours Glenswilly
The former county ace has not played in close on two years. His last outing in the black and amber was against Down champions Kilcoo in the Ulster club championship back in November 2009.
“Brendan is back training for a number of weeks and he will be in the squad for Sunday. He has not played for a couple of seasons but he is in good shape and is showing well in training and he may feature,” St. Eunan’s manager Jonathan Scanlon told the Democrat.
And he could be joined by another former forward ace David McGinley. McGinley has been troubled by injury for a couple of seasons and has played very little football in the last two years. Scanlon also confirmed that the former county minor and U-21 ace and Dr. Maguire winner is also back in training and in contention for a place in the team.
“David had an operation a few weeks ago in Dublin, but he has been back training for the last two weeks and is getting back into shape again.”
The return of Devenney and McGinley even if they do not make the starting line-up greatly strengthens Scanlon’s option especially given that regulars Eamonn Doherty, Mark McGowan along with Peter Devine, who broke into the team this year, are in the U.S for the summer.
Scanlon is also keeping his fingers crossed this week that county midfieler Rory Kavanagh recovers from his exertions last Saturday night in Croke Park, and that Kevin Rafferty is fully fit having being sidelined in recent weeks with a groin injury.
Glenswilly joint managers Gary McDaid and John McGinley have their own injury concerns to worry about this week too. Their biggest concerns centres on whether or not they will have county captain Michael Murphy. Murphy suffered a hamstring strain last week ahead of Donegal’s All-Ireland quarter-final meeting with Kildare and did not start that game due to the injury. He was introduced in the first half and played the rest of the game and the extra-time and seemed to come through with flying colours.
“I spoke to Michael on Monday night and he was still very stiff and sore but hopefully with a little rest and further treatment he will be okay by Sunday. Michael is a big player for us and we need him for what is a massive challenge against what has been the top team in the county over the last ten years or so,” said Gary McDaid.
Michael Murphy is not the Glenswilly managements only concern. Kealan McFadden, James Pat McDaid, Brian ‘Shorty’ McDaid and Leon Kelly are also nursing hamstring injuries while Daniel Gallagher is receiving treatment for a groin strain.
Brian Junior McDaid is out with a broken wrist suffered last week in the U-21 victory over Naomh Mhuire.
“St. Eunan’s is a massive game for us. They have been the top team in the county over the last decade. They are a very experienced side and Jonathan Scanlon has introduced a number of young players this year like Conal McGinley, Caolan Ward, Packie Kennedy, Sean McVeigh and Dara Mulgrew; they are all very good footballers and they have all fitted in well to the team. It is a massive test for us; they have beaten us any time we met in the championship in recent years and we are going to have to play exceptionally well to beat them.”
St. Eunan’s booked their place in the quarter-final with a win and draw against Dungloe in the first round. They defeated Dungloe 0-9 to 0-7 down in Rosses Park, before Conall Dunne earned them a late 0-11 to 1-8 draw in the second leg in O’Donnell Park. Dunne’s point was enough to secure their place in the last eight.
Glenswilly knocked champions Naomh Conaill off their pedestal in the first round. After drawing 0-6 each in Pairc Naomh Columba - Glenswilly’s home turf - they pulled off a sensational 1-10 to 2-6 win down in Davy Brennan Memorial Park, as they played the reigning titleholders and Ulster finalists off the pitch.
“Glenswilly got a fantastic result in Glenties and we played them a couple of weeks ago in the league and I was impressed with them. They played Neil Gallagher in full-forward that evening and he was very effective. It is going to take a big performance and we are going to have to be on the top of our game to win,” insisted Scanlon.
This one has all the ingredients of a nail biter with a lot depending on the fitness of Michael Murphy and Rory Kavanagh. If Murphy plays, Glenswilly should have enough to shade it but only just. But should the county skipper fail to make it the pendulum may swing very much in favour of St. Eunans.
Verdict: A fit Murphy (Glenswilly) otherwise St. Eunan’s.
Sunday August 7th - 6.30 pm -
St. Finian’s Park, Falcarragh
Gaoth Dobhair v St. Michaels
North West rivals and two teams with genuine championship ambitions Gaoth Dobhair and St. Michael’s collide in the last of the quarter-finals on Sunday evening in Falcarragh.
With both teams laced with stars from Donegal’s high drama victory over Kildare, this one has all the ingredients to make a cracking encounter.
Gaoth Dobhair with Kevin Cassidy, Neil and Eamonn McGee on board against the Christy Toye, Colm McFadden, Martin McElhinney and Daniel McLaughlin powered St. Michaels. Mouthwatering to say the least!
The two had easy enough passages to the last eight with Gaoth Dobhair overoming Termon in the first round, while St. Michaels had little bother with Sean MacCumhaills.
Sean ‘Nancy’ Gallagher, who has lost James Carroll to the U.S. since the opening round and is also without Co. U-21 Odhran McNiallais - long term injured, otherwise has reported a clean bill of health for Sunday evening’s showdown.
“We have a fully fit squad and with the three county boys back and available to us. We have a full strength squad to select from for the first time this year which leaves me with a few selection headaches. I know there will be a few boys disappointed but it is a good complaint to have, even if some tough decisions have to be made,” said Sean Nancy.
With a fully fit squad and a four game unbeaten run in the league behind them after a less than impressive start to the season Gallagher feels his squad is in the best shape they have been for a few years.
But it he also sees St. Michael’s a big challenge and huge hurdle to overcome if his side are to overcome a three year losing sequence at the quarter final stage.
“The championship is very open this year and it is all to play and no more than ourselves St. Michael’s will also have their sights set on doing well. We have not met all that often in senior football in recent years but we still know each other very well from underage. As I see it is very much a battle between our defence and their forwards and who wins that battle will win the game.”
With the exception of Antoin McFadden, who is also in the U.S. for the summer, St. Michael’s manager Eddie Harkin also is in the happy position of having a fully fit squad.
The loss of McFadden, brother of Colm Anthony, is somewhat compensated for with the return of Peter Witherow. Former county panellist Witherow missed most of last season and only returned for the second leg against MacCumhaills.
“Gaoth Dobhair are a good side and we are going to have to play very well to win. They are very strong defensively and have a good midfield but I still feel if we play to out true potential we can win it. But it is going to take a big performance from everybody,” said Eddie Harkin.
It is a fascinating contest and really will come down to whether Colm McFadden, Christy Toye and company are fit to unhinge the Goath Dobhair defence on the tight confines of St. Finian’s Park.
Verdict: Gaoth Dobhair.
Busanna Feda O Donaill Intermediate Championship play-off
Sunday August 7th - 6 pm -
Tir Chonaill Park
Naomh Naille v Naomh Brid
It is David Walsh versus Stephen Griffin as Naomh Brid and St. Naul’s battle it out on Sunday evening in Donegal Town in a preliminary round play-off in the Intermediate championship.
St. Naul’s came from six points down in the first leg to win by six in a fiery contest in Mountcharles. Griffin scored 1-10 of that St. Naul’s total of 1-12, while in the second leg Walsh scored the all important goal as Naomh Brid shaded it with two points to spare against a St. Naul’s side that were without the suspended Griffin.
With Griffin back in harness St. Naul’s are expected to make no mistake at the third attempt and advance to the first round.