The curtain comes down on the Donegal GAA scene on Sunday when MacCumhaill’s take on St. Naul’s to see who will become Donegal U-21B champions.
And an interesting aside to the final will be that the managers will be Mark O’Sullivan (Mayo) in charge of MacCumhaills and former St. Brigid’s, Dublin man, Enda Lynch wearing the bainisteoir bib at St. Naul’s.
Enda Lynch (originally from Dublin) and Mark O'Sullivan (originally from Mayo) - the respective managers on Sunday.
Both men arrived in the county some six and five years ago respectively and began playing for their adopted clubs and now, at the end of their playing careers, have taken up the baton of management.
Both men admit that preparing a team for U-21 level is not easy, not knowing when the competition was going to start.
MacCumhaill’s were due to play Malin back in June but found found out in October after five or six attempts that they couldn’t field. Since then they have defeated Cloughaneely and Milford to reach the final.
St. Naul’s had to come from behind against Burt and Glenswilly before overcoming Naomh Muire in the semi-final.
St. Naul’s manager, Enda Lynch, praised his panel for the spirit they have shown. “It is a hard grade to prepare for, but we got good momentum from the success of our senior team.
“It was a struggle for the first two games, coming from two points down in the final minutes and kicking the last three points against Burt and then coming from five down against Glenswilly. They dug it out and I would be hoping that this panel will be the backbone of future teams for St. Naul’s,” said Lynch.
“The attitude of the players has been the most pleasing aspect,” said Lynch, who praised the work of his assistant, Sean Campbell.
Gavin Mulreany is captain of the side while Brendan McCole and Peadar Mogan are the other big names but Lynch had praise for Cathal McGlynn and Dermot Gallagher among others. He also praised senior team manager, John McNulty, for encouraging the lads during the year.
MacCumhaill’s manager, Mark O’Sullivan, has been watching St. Naul’s this year, especially their success in the All-Ireland Gaeltacht and reaching the Intermediate final.
“They are a club on the rise. We might be the senior team on paper but we won’t be complacent. MacCumhaill’s haven’t achieved much in recent years. We would see St. Naul’s much the same as ourselves,” said O’Sullivan.
The MacCumhaill’s boss can call on four or five seniors with the rest plying their trade with the Reserves. Captain Ronan McMenamin, Eoin Cullen, Padraig Patton, Chris McCafferty and Nathan Gavigan are the seniors in O’Sullivan’s squad but the manager adds: “Nathan is very doubtful; indeed I would say he just won’t make it and that is a big blow to us.”
The Twin Towns side also have younger players like Chad McSorley, Luke Gavigan and Oisin Gallen who have involved with Donegal underage squads in recent years.
MacCumhaill’s have the better record in the past, winning the U-21A in 1975, 1992 and 1996, while the won the U-21B in 2007.
St. Naul’s won the U-21A in 1999 and have lost out in the U-21B final in 1995 and 2011. Could it be third time lucky?
On the basis of the scores on the path to the final, MacCumhaill’s must carry the tag of favourites. They have racked up big scores, while St. Naul’s have struggled over the line. However, in their semi-final, they did improve their scoring rate.
PATHS TO THE FINAL