St. Naul’s will be hoping that it will be case of history repeating itself when they lock horns with Naomh Columba in the Intermediate Championship final, in Tir Chonaill Park, Donegal Town. (Throw in 4pm).
Back in 1972, when the club won their second adult title, the junior championship, they defeated Glencolmcille in the final of that year. The men from the Parish of Inver had two points to spare at the end of that decider as they emerged 0-9 to 0-7 winners.
Now 39 years later, the two clubs are once again gearing up to go toe to toe, this time for Intermediate honours.
No one can argue that they are not in the final on merit though Naomh Colmcille will argue, with some justification, that they had Naomh Columba on the ropes in the semi-final but did not put them away and paid the ultimate price.
Naomh Columba’s championship character and pedigree saw them take the men from Newtowncunningham at the second attempt after veteran Noel Hegarty rescued them in the drawn game with two late points.
The men from Glencolmcille, who are managed Donegal All-Ireland winning captain, Anthony Molloy, are a Division Two team and had little difficulty with Milford over two games in the first round.
St. Naul’s, on the other hand, have had a more difficult passage to the final having come through the preliminary round and have played two more games than Sunday’s opponents.
It took three games to separate them and Naomh Brid in the first round before they saw off Aodh Ruadh in the first round proper over two games and they proved too strong for Urris in the semi-final.
Stephen Griffin is the ace in the St. Naul’s pack. He scored 1-10 out of 1-12 against Urris and has been regularly clocking up big scores in both the league and the championship right through the season.
“Stephen is a big player for us and there is no getting away from that but we have other men that have stepped up to the mark during the year too and we are far from a one man team,” insisted St. Naul’s manager Brian McCabe.
“We’ve had a good spread of scorers right through the team. We have a good blend between youth and experience with experienced players like Gavin Maguire, Daniel Friel and Danny McDyre blending well with the younger lads like John Rose and Barry Griffin, Stephen’s younger brother.
“Shane Conneely has joined us from Michael Breathanach’s in Galway this year and he has made a huge impact and is a great addition to the team. He is a brilliant ball winner and gives us an extra dimension up front and really has made a big difference.
“But we also know we’re up against it on Sunday. Glen have a great championship tradition and experience of playing in the senior championship and we know they will never give up and they will battle to the final whistle.”
Veteran Noel Hegarty at 41- even though he has been used as an impact sub - has been one of Naomh Columba’s influential players on the run to the final. He got his side out of jail with his two late points against Naomh Colmcille to earn his side a draw in the semi-final.
Pauric Gillespie, another player moving into the veteran category, is the leader of the Naomh Columba attack and along with Oisin McGinley, Darragh O’Donnell and Kevin ‘Beag’ Gillespie carry the big scoring threat for Naomh Columba.
Michael Maguire at centre half back and Martin Cunningham at full-back are the main stays along with Kieran McBrearty and Barry Carr in defence. McBrearty, despite his defensive duties, has also given Anthony Molloy’s men an extra scoring threat and has been popping up in attack and getting his name on the scoresheet on a fairly regular basis.
Former county man Noel McGinley has been hampered by injury all season and like Noel Hegarty his appearances have been in the main coming off the bench as a steadying influence when things might not be going entirely to plan.
“The lads have given a huge commitment and have put an huge effort this year and I have been telling them they are in the final on merit. It is 13 years since Naomh Columba were in a senior final and Sunday’s game means a lot to the players and the club. With the exception of Noel Hegarty and Noel ‘Freddie’(McGinley) none of the rest of the lads have played in a final. So Sunday is a big day for them,” said Anthony Molloy.
Molloy is sweating on the fitness of both Noel Hegarty and Noel McGinley but otherwise has a clean bill of health while Brian McCabe’s main worry is over Danny McDyre, Mark Ward and Aidan Kennedy. But the St. Naul’s boss expects to have a full squad to select from come Sunday.
While Naomh Columba are playing in a higher division and have the more recent senior championship experience they may lack the fire power up front to unhinge a St. Naul’s defence that have proven miserly all season.
And with Stephen Griffin more than capable of racking up a reasonable tally at the other end St. Naul’s may finally savour victory having lost their last six Intermediate final appearances.
A word of caution - and one that makes this an intriguing tie - Naomh Columba may have the defence and the know-how to curb Griffin’s influence and if they do it could lead to an interesting 60 plus minutes in Tir Chonaill Park.
Verdict: St. Naul’s.
Intermediate Paths to final
Quarter-final, 1st leg - July 24th
Milford 0-7 0-14 Naomh Columba
Quarter-final, 2nd leg - Sept 10th
Naomh Columba 3-14 0-3 Milford
Semi-final - Sept 25th
Naomh Columba 0-8 0-8 Naomh Colmcille
Semi-final Replay - Oct 1st
Naomh Columba 0-10 0-7 Naomh Colmcille
St. Nauls 1-12 2-3 Naomh Brid
St. Nauls 1-10 1-12 Naomh Brid
Play-off - Aug 7th
St. Naul’s 0-12 0-10 Naomh Brid
Quarter-final, first leg - Sept 3rd
St. Naul’s 1-12 0-4 Aodh Ruadh
Second leg - Sept 10th
St. Naul’s 1-5 0-6 Aodh Ruadh
Semi-final - Sept 25
St. Naul’s 1-12 0-7 Urris