Gaoth Dobhair and St Eunan’s may have had loftier ambitions for county final day than playing in the curtain raiser to the main event this Sunday in Sean MacCumhaill Park.
The chips have fallen in the race for the Dr Maguire Cup and it is Kilcar and Glenswilly that have made it through the senior final.
Gaoth Dobhair and St Eunan’s will contest the Senior B Championship final. (Throw-in 1.45 pm)
Gaoth Dobhair top the Division One Reserve League table just a point ahead of St Eunan’s, who have a game in hand.
Gaoth Dobhair defeated Termon and Four Masters and lost to Naomh Conaill, to finish runners-up to Naomh Conaill in their group in the championship.
And they defeated Dungloe in the quarter-final and Ardara in the semi-final to qualify for the final.
St Eunan’s, who have only lost three games all season, won their three group games over Kilcar, Killybegs and St Michael’s. In the quarter-final they were far too strong for Glenfin and in the semi-final they put a quality and fancied Naomh Conaill to the sword.
Barry Meehan, who is a member of David McGinley’s senior management team, is the St Eunan’s boss.
Meehan has vast experience working with underage and reserve teams at O’Donnell Park down the years.
And he has no difficulty in admitting that St Eunan’s had ambitions at the start of the season of reaching the senior final.
“The senior final is the pinnacle and is the one everybody wants to be in,” said Meehan.
“When we started out at the start of the year reaching the senior final would have been our number one goal.
“All the teams in the club train together and the plan was to make both finals.
“Unfortunately the seniors did not make it but the reserves have made it through to the Senior B final.”
The fact that the seniors did not make it to the last day has strengthened Meehan and St Eunan’s resolve to claim the Senior B silverware.
“Hopefully, we can get over the line now against Gaoth Dobhair on Sunday and take some silverware back to the club.”
St Eunan’s last Senior B win was back in 2014, when the competition was named the Senior Reserve Championship.
And before that they were also Reserve champions in 2008. In all St Eunan’s are four time Reserve champions.
The road to Sunday’s final for Barry Meehan and St Eunan’s began with a home win in O’Donnell Park against Kilcar.
“When we look back on that game it was possibly our best performance against a very good Kilcar side.
“We have not scaled those heights since that day in terms of performance.
“We then beat Killybegs and also beat St Michael’s down at the Bridge in what was another good performance.”
They had a comfortable win over Glenfin and came from behind to pip a fancied Naomh Conaill in the semi-final.
“Personally I thought we were very lucky against Naomh Conaill to get the win.
“We were lucky in the first half because we could have been well beaten at half-time.
“But we hung in and stuck to our task in the second half and Blake (Forkan), our goalkeeper, made a brilliant save and we went up the field and scored a goal.
“We kicked on from there and that was the difference in the end.
“That was a big result when when you look at the quality of the players in the Naomh Conaill with the likes of Johnny Bonner, Johnny McLoone, Kieran Gallagher, JD Boyle, Logan Quinn, Joe Kennedy; there was a lot of good players in the team.”
St Eunan’s, like most reserve teams, have a good mix of young and experienced players. Colin McIntyre, Kieran Sharkey, David O’Herlihy, Donnacha Gallagher, Ronan Lennon and Brendan Maguire, boys that have won senior championships and reserve championships, are the experienced lads.
Then the have the younger lads such as Conor Moore, Sean McGettigan, Daniel Gillespie, Michael Miller, who all have won underage championships.
“These lads are used to winning coming up through the ranks and you hope that you just have the right balance to take you over the line.”
Joe Duffy, a senior championship winner with Gaoth Dobhair, is in his first year in management of the club’s reserves. Mervyn O’Donnell is his number two.
Like St Eunan’s, Duffy also admits he had their sights set on bringing a senior championship back to Magheragallon.
“At the beginning of every year Gaoth Dobhair set out to do well in the senior championship. This year it did not happen for the seniors,” said Duffy.
“Hopefully we can make up for that and win the Senior B Championship and give the people of the parish something to smile about.
“We have a good record once we get to finals and this year our focus all year has been on the Senior B Championship.
“Getting to the final is the hardest bit; once you are in the final regardless of whether you are the underdog or the favourite you have a chance. It is just a matter who performs on the day.”
Duffy, like a new broom, has freshened up the reserve team this year with an injection of young players that have come up through the ranks in recent years.
“When I took on the job at the start of the year I got Mervyn O’Donnell involved with me.
“Mervyn is the minor manager and I felt it was important to have the minor manager as part of the management team because he would know the minor players better than I would.
“The minors bring so much energy and they have really freshened the squad up and this is helping the older lads like Dan McBride, James Gallagher and Chris McFadden.
“James Gallagher, in my eyes, is one of the best Gaoth Dobhair players I have played with and from speaking to older men in the club they are putting him down as one of the greats of the club.
“He is a level headed lad and always looks after himself and he is not playing for as long as he is without looking after himself.”
“Conor Boyle, Eamonn Collum, Odhran McFadden Ferry, a county minor are some of the younger talent; Shane Ferry hasn’t played for us yet. He had a two game suspension but he is available for the final. They are the new additions this season.”
They are the players that manager Duffy is putting his faith in to deliver the silverware this Sunday.
ST EUNAN’S squad: Blake Forkan; Ronan Lennon, Colin McIntyre, Gavin Maguire; Daire McMonagle, Conor Moore, Colm Flood; Andrew Doherty, Daniel Gillespie; Michael Miller, Kieran Sharkey, Mark Forde; Matthew McColgan, Oisin Clarke, David Herlihy. Aidan Simmons, Dillon Sweeney, Sean Halvey, Sean McGettigan, Oisin O’Boyle, Oisin Toal, Brian McIntyre, Donnacha Gallagher, Brendan Maguire, Matthew Gallagher.
GAOTH DOBHAIR: Charles John Doherty, Sean McGarvey, Hugh Boyle, James Boyle; Jamie Boyle, Christopher McFadden, Ryan Kelly; Dan McBride, Odhran McFadden Ferry; Micheál Roarty, James Gallagher, Sean Boyle; Conor Boyle, Sean Doherty, Eamonn Collum, Dylan O’Donnell, Conor McCafferty, Manny Gallagher, Colin Ferry, Paul Mulligan, Keith Sweeney, Neasan McBride, Bill McBride, Christopher Cannon, Shane Ferry.
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