MICHAEL MURPHY SENIOR CHAMPIONSHIP

DONEGAL SFC SEMI-FINAL: Kilcar strong favourites to advance to another final

Tom Comack

Reporter:

Tom Comack

DONEGAL SFC SEMI-FINAL: Kilcar strong favourites to advance to another final

St. Michael's senior team

Tom Comack sport@donegaldemocrat.com @dgldemocrat

Kilcar and St Michael’s, who meet in the first of the Michael Murphy Senior Championship semi-finals on Saturday night in MacCumhaill Park (7.30 pm), are no strangers to each other.

They have locked horns in the championship in the group stages a number of times in recent seasons.

Last year was the most recent. Kilcar won that game 2-15 to 0-7, a result which effectively consigned St Michael’s to championship also rans.

The previous meetings in the championship were also in the group stages in 2013 and 2014.

Kilcar won in 2013 to deny St Michael’s a place in the last eight.

And St Michael’s went to Towney the following year, 2014, and turned the tables on Kilcar.

This result sent Kilcar, managed by Rory Gallagher, crashing out of the championship.

This was the one and only time Kilcar have failed to qualify for the knockout changes since the introduction of new group format in 2013.

Kilcar are the reigning league champions and last year’s beaten championship finalists.

Barry Doherty has taken over the management reins from Martin McHugh. And the transition has been a seamless one.

Once again, just like last season, they are the form team in the county.

They are in pole position to once again lift the league title, Democrat Cup, though their lead at the top of the table over St Eunan’s was reduced to a point at the weekend.

An understrength Kilcar suffered only their second defeat of the season - a surprise away loss to Bundoran on Saturday.

County stars Ryan McHugh and Patrick McBrearty were among those that missed the trip to Bundoran.

Mark McHugh was only introduced in the second period.

“We were without up to eight of the squad for one reason and another, from the All-Ireland final to Karl Lacey’s wedding,” Barry Doherty told the Democrat.

“But in fairness to Bundoran they were up for the game. They are battling for survival in Division One and we maybe took them a little for granted.

“It is a lesson for all and maybe a wake up call ahead of this weekend’s game. St Michael’s will be a different proposition on Saturday night.

“But we will be ready for them and there is no chance we will take them for granted.

“We know them well enough and what they are capable of; we have met a good few times in the championship over the last three or four years.

“We are expecting nothing easy from St Michael’s and we are going to have to be at our best if we want to make the final.”

Barry Shovlin (hamstring strain) and his brother, Stephen Shovlin, are the only injury concerns in Kilcar this week.

However, Barry Doherty expects the Shovins to be good to go come Saturday evening.

St Michael’s are appearing in their first senior semi-final since 2014.

Michael Kelly, a mentor under manager Tony Wilkinson in 2014, is now calling the shots from the sideline for St Michael’s.

Kelly is waiting on the fitness of young county ace Michael Langan for Saturday’s game.

Langan picked up an ankle injury in St Michael’s second round group game against Bundoran at the end of August.

He was only introduced in the closing minutes of the quarter-final win over Burt.

“He is back in training alright but he is still not a 100% and we are going to have to wait until later in the week to see if he is good to go.

“An ankle injury can be slow to heal and we don’t want to rush him either or you could do more damage. He came on for the last few minutes against Burt and had no adverse reaction afterwards.

“He has trained on it since but feels it is not just right yet. We will know better later in the week,

“He is very young but he is an important player for us and we are going to give him every chance to be fit. But we are not going to risk him and if he is not 100% we won’t start him whatever about introducing him.”

St Michael’s won their three group games. They defeated MacCumhaills, Bundoran and Malin to top the group ahead of Bundoran.

And they defeated Burt - last year’s Intermediate champions - in the quarter-final in what proved to be their stiffest test of the campaign.

It took a couple of late inspirational points from Colm McFadden to finally see off the Inishowen men.

“Burt are a good side with a number of top quality players and they are very well organised,” said St Michael’s manager, Michael Kelly.

“They are very disciplined and they stick rigidly to their system and being honest we were lucky to get out of O’Donnell Park with a win that evening.

“It took a couple of inspirational points from Colm (McFadden) to see us through.”

St Michael’s players Stephen Doak, Peter Witherow and Antoin McFadden won a New York Senior Championship with Donegal the weekend before last.

They are three players that Michael Kelly would dearly love to have in his lineup on Saturday evening.

But unfortunately they are not eligible.

“Naturally, we would love to have them but unfortunately, we won’t and we have known that since they transferred.

“They are what they call home based players and went out on permanent transfers as opposed to 60 day sanctions.”

Kilcar are the form team and favourites while St Michael’s form has been patchy. They are ten points behind Kilcar in the league table with seven wins and two draws from 16 games played.

Both Kilcar and St Michael’s strengths lie in attack which sets up a fascinating tie and it promises to be a busy night for defenders.

They have met twice already in the league with Kilcar claiming the points in both games with plenty to spare.

Verdict: Kilcar.