Centra Supermarkets U-21 final (2010)
Close contest expected
Almost eleven months to the day when they locked horns in the 2009 U-21 final, St. Michael's and Naomh Conaill are due to collide again this Sunday to decide the destination of the 2010 U-21 championship title.
They both return to O'Donnell Park, St. Michael's as champions and Naomh Conaill as challengers in a role reversal from this time last year.
St. Michael's caused something of an upset when they emerged seven points winners - 0-13 to 0-6 - to capture the club's first ever U-21 crown. In the process they ended Naomh Conaill's bid for a fourth crown in-a-row.
But Naomh Conaill are back in their fifth final in succession with Leo McLoone snr. once again calling the shots on the line and Leo junior orchestrating things on the park.
In all, Naomh Conaill have 11 of the 16 players that featured in last year's decider. Stephen McGrath once again mans the goals while defenders Ciaran Boyle, Stephen Molloy, Jamie Gallagher, Cathal Ellis are still around.
As are Leo McLoone (jun), Jamie Molloy, Dermot ‘Brick' Molloy, Seamus Corcoran, A.J. Gallagher, and Jamie McHugh.
McHugh was a regular member of last year's starting 15 until he broke his collarbone in the Ulster U-21 semi-final in Portglenone and only made the final coming off the bench in the closing minutes of last year's final.
"With the seniors long run in Ulster and the weather and a number of the lads committed with the county it has not been easy and we have not got an awful lot of work with the squad. And I think we showed that against Kilcar on Saturday (in the semi-final). We were a little rusty and not in the best of shape," said Leo McLoone senior.
Naomh Conaill defeated wasteful Kilcar 0-6 to 0-4 in the semi-final and looked far from impressive.
St. Michael's, too, had just two points to spare at the end of their last four meeting with Gaoth Dobhair on Sunday week last in O'Donnell Park. Ironically they also emerged 0-6 to 0-4 winners.
No more than Naomh Conaill, St. Michael's boast of a quite a few of last year's all-conquering side. Martin McElhinney and Martin Breslin are the only players out of bounds on age grounds, while a cruciate injury means Patrick McFadden is unavailable to Colm McFadden senior. Denis Horan is studying in London and has not appeared so far in the campaign.
Last year's goalkeeper Mark Anthony McGinley is another player that is still eligible but has not featured so far. However, Colm McFadden was this week not ruling out the club's senior net minder making an appearance on Sunday.
"Thankfully we have no injuries and have a fully fit squad; with the exception of Patrick McFadden we have everybody else. We had a good workout against the Vocational Schools team at the weekend and we are ready to go. We are looking forward to the final and giving it our best shot and see how it goes," insisted Colm McFadden,
Michael Cannon, who led the attack from centre-forward in last year's final, has been between the posts so far in the campaign.
Interestingly Cannon lined out in the attack against the Donegal Vocational School team in a challenge game on Sunday afternoon.
As well as Cannon, Stephen Doak, Ben Kyle, Antoin McFadden, Ryan Langan, Andrew Kelly, Daniel McLaughlin, Raymond McLaughlin, John McFadden and Barry McGinley all featured in last February's historic first major.
Of the two St. Michael's probably have shown the marginally better form so far. But with revenge on Naomh Conaill minds, it may be enough to tip the scales.
Verdict: Naomh Conaill.
Paths to the final
1st. round - Oct. 30, Dunfanaghy,
St. Michael's 1-12, St. Eunans 0-7
Quarter-final: Dec 31, Termon
St. Michael's 0-12, Glneswilly 0-8
Semi-final: Jan 16, O'Donnell Park
St. Michael's 0-6, Gaoth Dobhair 0-4
1st. round: Dec 31, Davy Brennan Memorial Park
Naomh Conaill 1-8, Four Masters 1-7
Quarter-final: Naomh Conaill w/o Sean MacCumhaills
Semi-final: Jan 22, Fintra
Naomh Conaill 0-6, Kilcar 0-4
Ciaran Boyle and Raymond McLaughlin will be up close and personal again on Sunday.