Kilcar are favourites but we will be competitive - Canning

Kilcar are favourites but we will be competitive - Canning
Tom Comack @dgldemocrat

Four finals in eight seasons and two championship titles means county final day holds no fears for Glenswilly.

With a record like that one wonders how Kilcar, appearing in their first final in 23 years, are such hotly backed favourites for Sunday’s Michael Murphy Sports & Leisure Senior Championship final.

Those Glenswilly final appearances were in 2007, 2011, 2013 and 2014. They lost to St Eunan’s in the 2007 and 2014 deciders and defeated St Michael’s in 2011 and Killybegs in 2013 to raise aloft the Dr Maguire Cup.

Current manager, Michael Canning, now in his second season in the hot seat at Pairc Naomh Columba, saw action from the subs bench in 2007 and was by Gary McDaid and John McGinley’s side in 2013, when the Dr Maguire was won for a second time.

“We definitely won’t be in awe of the occasion as we have enjoyed a good run in the last seven to eight years,” said Canning, who has been joined again this season by Gary McDaid, the man mainly associated with the club’s defensive strategy in recent years.

“It’s a fourth final in six years for us since 2011 and fifth since 2007 and it is a great feeling and it is something that you can never get enough of.”

Glenswilly have come up on the rails in the latter stages of the championship after losing their opening game away to Ardara, back in May and a poor start to the league season.

But Michael Canning has a perfectly good explanation for the early season struggles and that first round championship defeat to Ardara.

“When we sat down at the start of the year to plan for the season ahead we looked at our campaign last year.

“Last year we decided to target the first championship game in May against Gaoth Dobhair and we looked to really peak for that game.

“We got back early and trained hard for that game and got over the line that day. But as the summer progressed we really felt the hunger and desire to keep things going was a lot harder.

“So this year we took a different approach and we said we would not concentrate so much on that first championship game although we needed to be in good shape for it.

“The plan was to peak say more this time of the year and more into the championship run at the back end of the season.”

Should that be a warning worth noting in Kilcar.

“Our first collective session was the week before our first league game and that definitely affected our league campaign at the start of the year albeit that we were very unlucky with a lot of injuries as well.”

There were times at the beginning of the season Michael Canning had to delve into the reserve strength at Pairc Naomh Columba.

“There were times in the early part of the year when we had 12 to 13 men missing and all those things tied into the poor start to the league.”

Thankfully for Canning and Glenswilly by the time the second round of the championship came around at the end of August, the injuries had, by and large, cleared.

And the two aces in the Glenswilly pack, Michael Murphy and Neil Gallagher, had returned fully focussed on the club following Donegal’s All-Ireland quarter-final defeat by Dublin, a couple of weeks earlier.

“When we got back to playing the championship we picked things up in the second round game against Dungloe and we have pushed on since that.


“The championship in Glenswilly is a huge ambition of ours. It is something that we always talk about. You are not just in the hat and want to play championship football.

“It is important that we have a tradition that we compete and that is important to us that we do compete every year.”

The maintenance of that tradition is being fuelled by a good crop of underage players that have been nurtured by the club’s good underage structures.

Caoimhinn Marley, Ciaran Gibbons, Cormac Callaghan, Ryan Diver, Oisin Crawford and Christopher McMonagle are the younger set that have broken into the senior set up in the last season or so.

“That is one of the positives to come out of all those injuries at the start of the year. It has meant that all the young lads got game time.

“And from that you can see then that you can trust them and throw them into a championship match.”

And of course there was the return of the big two of Michael Murphy and Neil Gallagher.

“It goes without saying they are huge players for us and they really drove the thing on when they came back. They really focussed the mind of the guys.”

Glenswilly returned to championship action with a 1-10 to 0-10 second round win over Dungloe in Pairc Naomh Columba.

“The result against Dungloe was the turning point for us. Not only because Neil and Michael were back and pushing them on but the fact that they got over the line that day without Michael even being on the field.

“It was a huge boost to the guys to know they can do it on the big day without having the likes of Michael.”

Glenswilly chalked up their second championship win with a 3-12 to 0-7 victory over Bundoran, away, to top their group and qualify for the quarter-final.

In the quarter-final with Michael Murphy and Gary McFadden in sparkling form up front and Neil Gallagher pulling the strings in the middle of the park, Glenswilly chalked up 2-20 in their quarter-final win over Sean MacCumhaill’s.

Their semi-final clash with Malin was a much closer affair, with the Inishowen giving the men from Glen a run for their money, before they finally emerged 0-9 to 0-7 winners.

“We did not play well against Malin, who are a decent team, but semi-finals are all about winning. If I was told before the game that we would win by a point I would have taken it.

“That is all we wanted to do, get over the line, win the semi-final and be preparing for a county final.

“And now that we are in the final and preparing for it, it is a fantastic feeling and we are really looking forward to it.

“I know Kilcar are the favourites and deserving of being huge favourites going into the final.

“They haven’t lost a game all year bar their two star games and they are definitely the form team in both the league and the championship.

“We are going up to really enjoy the day and compete and that is what it is all about. It is important that we compete.

“Of all the four championship finals we have been in this is the one we are under the least amount of pressure because nobody is expecting us to win,” said Canning.