Termon and Aodh Ruadh are both content to pass off the tag of favouritism ahead of their All Sports Donegal Town Intermediate Football Championship final on Friday (throw-in 8.15pm).
In this conveyor-belt championship season in the north-west, Termon have only five days to recover from their 0-9 to 0-4 last four win over Buncrana, while Aodh Ruadh have just the day extra following their 1-16 to 0-5 replay victory over Naomh Colmcille after a 2-10 to 1-13 draw.
“We were delighted,” said Philip O’Reilly, who is joint-manager with Maurice McLaughlin at Aodh Ruadh. “The week beforehand, in the drawn game, we only played for 15 or 20 minutes and the message we were trying to get across all week was, win or lose, we wanted to perform for the full hour.
“As we had in the first game, we managed to get seven or eight up but we pushed on from there.
“We tried to move the ball in fast and experience did tell. Michael Ward, Stephen Ward and Brian Roper did well, but so too did younger lads like Eamonn McGrath and David Dolan. But all in all, it was a great team performance.”
The win and draw over the Newtowncunningham side was a replica of the Ernesiders passage from the quarter-finals, drawing initially 1-5 to 0-8 before winning the second leg 2-14 to 0-11 against Naomh Bríd.
To date in the competition, Termon had 10 points to spare over Urris in their quarter-final first leg in September, winning 2-14 to 1-4, with Christy Connaghan and Ollie Doherty the goalscorers.
Then, in Clonmany, Connaghan scored a fine person tally of 1-12 in the 2-15 to 0-8 victory.
On Sunday last, Martin Sweeney was a scorer of three points from play against Buncrana, while player-manager Paddy McDaid also scored twice.
“We were glad to get through,” McDaid said. “That’s what we have been aiming for all year. Buncrana started very well but we got back to break even and went in ahead at 0-5 to 0-3.
“The little bit of breeze we had in the second half helped. We weren’t overly impressive but got through and we’re happy enough with that.
“The night before, I went to see the Aodh Ruadh match and they were extremely impressive in the way they got through. Because of that, they’re probably favourites for Friday.
“The quick turnaround is tough on both teams and we have Michael Boyle in labs in DCU on Friday at college. He can’t get out of them so will only be leaving Dublin at 4pm.
“It’s been tough on players and this year there’s very little build-up for both teams to enjoy but that’s just the way that it is and we’ll get on with it.”
Momentum has helped take both teams to the final and although there are a few bumps and bruises, neither team are expecting to have absentees because of injury. Only Termon’s Jimmy Gallagher, who is away on holiday, is definitely out.
Both teams have aspirations to play their domestic football higher than Division Three of the All-County League and the Intermediate Championship but a win on Friday night would make the season worthwhile.
Termon have won both meetings in the league this term, starting off their season in March with a 0-13 to 0-8 win in Ballyshannon and then enjoying a comprehensive 2-11 to 1-8 success at the Burn Road in June.
“We stuck with them for a while at Fr Tierney Park in the first match but were well beaten in Termon, which would make us outsiders for Friday,” O’Reilly continued. “The majority of the Termon panel have been playing senior football for all their time with the club. They’re seasoned at that level.”
Termon are aiming for a third title at this bracket having defeated Bundoran 1-17 to 1-15 in 1991 and then repeating the trick nine years later when they toppled St Michael’s, 0-16 to 0-4. Like O’Reilly said, only a handful remain since their last time involved in the competition.
“Anthony McGrenra, Kevin McGettigan, Trevor Alcorn, Johnny McCafferty, myself and Jimmy Gallagher,” are the remnants recalled by McDaid.
On the other hand, all Aodh Ruadh’s success in the championship has come in the seniors, where they have 12 titles, a feat only matched by St Eunan’s and beaten by Gaoth Dobhair on 14.
However, they have not played in a championship final of any sort since they lost to St Eunan’s in the senior decider of 1999, a year after their last success. Like Termon, they are a club in transition.
“Maybe as a club we took our eye off the ball,” O’Reilly adds. “We had a steady stream coming in naturally, particularly from the De La Salle school before it closed, but we’ve started to put in the work now at underage level.
“We see this game on Friday as a major stepping stone. Three or four years ago John Travers suggested we take the intermediate route but in the end up we had no choice but to.
“Some of the youngsters playing now cannot remember the heady days of the 1990s. We have to get back there.”
Termon, too, have reason for victory. Andrew Duffy, who tragically died the night Donegal beat Cork in the All-Ireland semi-final when he drowned in the Royal Canal at Binns bridge in the Phibsboro area of north Dublin in August, was part of the squad.
The Termon number seven jersey is retired in his memory
“Andrew was part of our panel and helped us win the Junior Comórtas Peile na Gaeltachta titles in Donegal and nationally,” McDaid said. “It was would be brilliant to win it for Andrew’s memory and his family.”
Aodh Ruadh: Peter Boyle, Ronan Drummand, Ciron Whoriskey, Conor Patton, Michael Dolan, Johnny Gallagher, Eamonn McGrath, James O’Donnell, Barry Ward, Niall McCready, David Dolan, Martin Gallagher, Brian Roper, Michael Ward, Donagh McIntyre, Paul Kane, PJ Magee, Diarmuid McInerney, Anthony Boyle, Kerry Ryan, Stephen Ward, Pauric Loughlin, Ronan Mathews, Barry Mulligan.
Termon:Michael Boyle, Joe O’Donnell, Kevin McGettigan, Anthony cGrenra, Shaun O’Donnell, Kevin McElwaine, Jimmy McElwaine, Ollie Doherty, John McCafferty,Kevin McDaid, Martin Sweeney, Trevor Alcorn, Aidan Sweeney, Christy Connaghan, Paddy McDaid,Conor Tinney, Daire McDaid, Barry Nelis, Daireann Gibson, Francie Friel, Stephen McElwaine, James Doherty, Daniel Connaghan, Brian Trearty, Thomas Cullen, Joe English, Mark Gallagher.