Naomh Conaill/St Eunan's is the big game

Naomh Conaill/St Eunan's is the big game
Tom Comack @dgldemocrat

Of the four quarter-finals in the Michael Murphy Sport and Leisure Senior Championship the meeting of Naomh Conaill and St Eunan’s is the big game.

Naomh Conaill, the champions, against the previous year’s champions and two teams that have won four out of the last five Donegal finals.

They clash in MacCumhaill Park on Sunday evening with a 5 p.m. throw-in.

Of the two Naomh Conaill have shown the better form over the summer and are also in the hunt for the Division One League title, hot on league leaders Kilcar's tail.

They are also the only team across all four groups to win all three group games.

“We have been showing good form and much is being made about us and St Eunan’s and it being the big game,” said Martin Doherty, who is joint manager of Naomh Conaill along with Martin Regan.

“Regardless of who you meet in the quarter-final you have to perform to the top of your game.

“Just because it is St Eunan’s, it doesn’t mean we have to approach the game in a different manner. And it is the same for St Eunan’s.

“When you get to the quarter-final it is knock out. There are no second chances. If you don’t perform to the top of your game you are out.

“And that is also regardless how you are going beforehand. All that matters for us now is how we perform over the 60 plus minutes next Sunday evening.”

The game is a repeat of last year’s final won by 14 man Naomh Conaill, 0-12 to 0-10.

They came from 0-8 to 0-6 down after losing Eoghan McGettigan to a straight red card shortly after being introduced ten minutes into the second period.

“We did not perform all that well in last year’s final and it was more a case of grinding out a result.

“It may sound strange but we are going to have to put in a better performance all around on this occasion if we are to advance.”

A feature of Naomh Conaill this year is their strength-in-depth and some big name players such as Darragh Gallagher, Leon Thompson, Kevin and Eoghan McGettigan have been held in reserve.

This may be down to niggly injuries and not being match fit and other times due to the competition for places.

But all these players have made impacts from the bench.

“This time of the year you always have fellas carry knocks and niggles. That is why you need strength-in-the squad.”

Doherty has reported a few minor knocks and bruises but nothing to be of major concern.

John Haran is in his 22nd championship season and is very much the veteran of new manager David McGinley’s squad. Former championship winner and former county minor David McGinley took over from Maxi Curran after Curran stepped down at the end of last season.

“It is a huge game and a big test for us playing the champions,” said veteran Haran, winner of seven Donegal senior championships with St Eunan’s.

“Naomh Conaill are the champions and are one of the form teams in the county. They probably have much the same team as we played in last year’s final while we lost a couple of players,” says Haran.

Kevin Rafferty and Conor O’Donnell (long term injured) and Lee McMonagle (broken finger suffered in the last round against St Michael’s) are the big St Eunan’s absentees for Sunday evening’s showdown.

County minor Niall O’Donnell, used from the bench in last year’s decider, and Darragh McWalters are two young players that have nailed down regular places in the St Eunan’s starting 15 this season.

Naomh Conaill won last year’s final by two points and John Haran expects it to another close affair.

“There was very little between us in the final last year. They seemed to kick on when they went the man down and we probably sat back and allowed them back into the game and fair play to them, they took full advantage.

“Hopefully we won’t let that happen this time around if we get ahead.”

Apart from Kevin Rafferty, Conor O’Donnell and Lee McMonagle, St Eunan’s have no other major injury concerns.

Verdict: Naomh Conaill