Naomh Conaill are heading to Ballyvourney in West Cork this weekend to defend their All-Ireland Comórtas Peil Na Gaeltachta title they won for the first time last year.
Naomh Conaill are also the reigning Donegal champions following last month’s county final victory over neighbours, Ardara. However, Ardara will also travel as the Donegal representatives in the senior section.
And that is why Naomh Conaill have to play a preliminary round while Ardara go straight into the quarter-final, something that has not gone down well in Glenties.
“We find it very strange that we as All-Ireland and Donegal champions are in the preliminary round and Ardara go straight to the quarter final,” said Martin Doherty, joint manager of Naomh Conaill along with Martin Regan.
“We feel it is very unfair that as the champions we have a preliminary round game on Saturday morning and if we win that we have a quarter-final on Saturday evening.
“We made our feelings known to the organisers on the matter but they wouldn’t budge so we have no choice but to accept and play the game.”
Naomh Conaill will face Belmullet, the Mayo champions, in the preliminary round game on Saturday at 12.30.
The winners will face either Moycullen, Galway or Wolfe Tones, Meath, in the quarter-final. The throw-in for that game is 7.30 pm. Moycullen and Wolfe Tones also meet in a preliminary round on Saturday morning.
Ardara face An Rinn from Waterford in the first of the quarter-finals on Saturday at 4.30 pm. The finals are being hosted by Naomh Aban, Ballyvourney.
Both Naomh Conaill and Adara are travelling without their county players due to the closeness to Donegal’s championship clash with Fermanagh the following weekend.
In the case of Naomh Conaill they will be without Leo McLoone, Anthony and Ciaran Thompson while Paddy McGrath is not travelling with Ardara. They will also be without their county minors.
The Leaving Certificate and injury has also stripped both squads of a number of key young players.
“I know we are without the county men and the eight lads doing the Leaving Cert but we still will have a strong enough side and we are going down to defend our title,” Martin Doherty insisted.
Former county seniors Dermot ‘Brick’ Molloy, Darragh Gallagher, Marty Boyle and Brendan McDyer - who has returned from a lengthy injury lay off (and nuptials) in recent weeks - will backbone the Naomh Conaill line-up. Leon Thompson is also carrying an injury.
Ardara already without Paddy McGrath, are making the trip without the injured Brendan Boyle and Jimmy O’Connell and Cathal Gallagher and Tomás Boyle, who have headed to the US for the summer.
However, Declan Gavigan and Gareth Concarr, who missed last weekend’s league clash with Naomh Conaill, are set to return and along with team captain Conor Classon, Kevin Herron and Ryan Malley, will lead the Ardara challenge.
Downings will fly the Donegal flag in the junior championship in Cork. Andy Connor and his men also face a preliminary round meeting with Kilcommon from Mayo, on Saturday, throw in 11 am.
The semi-finals are on Sunday and the finals are on Monday.