We have to be careful with the ball if we are to win - 'Copper'

We have to be careful with the ball if we are to win - 'Copper'
Gerry McLaughlin sport@donegaldemocrat.com @dgldemocrat

The stats don’t lie! And, despite their, for some, almost Lazarus like recovery to reach a county final, Na Fir Fada “the long men” from Glenswilly have some real blue blood championship pedigree.

When told of that imposing physique, modest team captain Gary “Copper” McFadden rightly points out that it will count for nothing if “we can’t keep up with Kilcar.”

And while it would be wrong to categorise this county final clash as a battle between the speed of Martin McHugh’s men in blue and gold and the strength of Glenswilly, there is an element of truth in that otherwise somewhat trite observation.

But what is undeniable is the sheer championship pedigree of Glenswilly.

On Sunday, they will be appearing in four out of the last six county finals after reaching their first and losing against St Eunan’s back in 2007.

They were victorious in 2011 and 2013 and came within a kick of a ball of taking an Ulster title that same year.

And,they were only beaten by two points by St Eunan’s in the 2014 final.

They had up to ten players injured at the start of the season, which severely stunted their League challenge, as Gary reveals.

“There was up to nine or ten players injured and we had boys playing county as well.

“It was a struggle to field teams for a while and a couple of times we could not field a reserve team because we had been taking players from them for the senior team.

“We lost against Ardara in the championship and Michael Murphy got injured in the first minute, but he played on even though he was only on one leg.

“So we knew that every other game was a knock-out game and we always seem to do better when our backs were to the wall.

“We beat Dungloe and had a few men back for that one and we scraped through, beat MacCumhaills and then Malin, another close one, in the semi-final.”

But apart from the Championship, Gary and the Glen still have a big interest in the League as they have a sudden death game against Termon coming up shortly.

“That was put off but it has been a great turnaround for us and Michael Murphy and Neil Gallagher are big players for us.

“They are big players for the county, never mind our club.

“I was playing midfield all year but when Neil came back it allowed me to go back into the forward line and it takes the pressure off and before this we did not have too many forwards when Michael wasn’t there.

“Neil came back and steadied up the middle and Michael is a focal point up front.

“They are like two big anchors.”

Gary said he was hoping that Glenswilly’s experience of winning county titles and competing in Ulster will stand to them on Sunday.

“We might have an edge in experience but some of the Kilcar lads have played in All-Ireland senior football finals, so they should be well able to adapt.”

And the already physically imposing Glen could be even more formidable as strength and conditioning coach Adam Speer has been working with the club this year.

“He is a great man to have but there is no point in being six foot if Kilcar has a few wee men that are flying and you are not able to catch them.

“We need to adapt as they have threats all over the field from a pacey half-back line with the McHughs and Mark is sweeping and makes an odd run from deep.

“Michael Hegarty and Ciaran McGinley at midfield are also chipping in with scores and the McBreartys and Eoin McHugh are inside.

“They are well balanced and play the game at a ferocious pace and they are in great shape and Michael Hegarty is as fit as I have ever seen him.

“They seem to have put in a phenomenal effort this year and they will be very hard to stop and they were only beaten twice this year, in starred games so it will be a huge task for us.”

But Kilcar can’t match the sheer experience of the Glen and have not been in a final since 1993, so could this be a factor in Glenswilly’s favour?

“If it was anyone else you might say that but the fact that they have three or four who have already played in All-Ireland finals might be enough to help the other boys through.

“I don’t think it will get to those county players but after five or ten minutes they will settle in, so I don’t think it is that big of an advantage really for us.”

So where will be winning and the losing of this county final come?

“Well the losing of it will be if you don’t watch their runners and you don’t get up to the pace of the game right away, you could be out of sight after just ten minutes.

“The winning of the game could come by being careful with the ball and not giving it away cheaply and making unforced errors and if we stick to that we should not be too far away.”

And of course they have a certain Michael Murphy inside who had an injury this season.

“We have Michael inside and he always seems to rise it for finals.

“He did it in an All-Ireland final and in the last few finals that we have been in.

“Michael knows how to do it on the big day, but it is not just him, as every other man has to chip in as well.”