Naomh Conaill's adventure continues with Coalisland test
Naomh Conaill are bidding to go where no Donegal club side has dreamed to dare in close on two decades when they go toe to toe with Tyrone champions Coalisland in the Ulster senior club semi-final at Brewster Park in Enniskillen on Sunday.
Killybegs in 1991 were the last Donegal side to experience an Ulster club final, which they lost to Castleblaney Faughs of Monaghan, with both Four Masters in 2003 and St Eunan's in 2008 the only clubs from the county to go close in the new millennium.
A preliminary round victory over Cavan champions Kingscourt and a first round proper win over Clontibret has set Naomh Conaill up for a crack at a place in the final. Given the momentum gained in the victories over the Cavan and Monaghan champions is now under their belts, the Glenties side hope to use that to their advantage against the O'Neill County winners, who have only one game played in the province in the first outing in Ulster in 20 years. That a 1-10 to 1-7 victory over Roslea from Fermanagh.
Since they escaped from Donegal, Naomh Conaill have upped their game in a big way and have showed scintillating form in their two games to date and this is especially so when it comes to the forward division, who have clocked up 1-12 against Kingscourt and 2-11 in their game with Clontibret.
"We are in a very good place and have shown good form in Ulster so far," said Naomh Conaill manager Cathal Corey, who is a Tyrone man. "The lads have been working very hard and putting a huge effort in training and there performances have reflected the effort they have been putting in on the training pitch and hopefully we can step it up again on Sunday.
"Coalisland are a good outfit. They have only lost two games in Tyrone so far this year and are the form team in the county at present. I watched them last weekend against Dromore in the league semi-final and while they were short three or four players, they still came out on top and are now in the league final as well.
"They are a well balanced side with Johnny Curran in goals, one of Mickey Harte's three goalkeepers, Peter Donnelly at full-back is a former Tyrone senior and All-Ireland winner, centre-back Niall Kerr has played minor and U-21 for the county and Tiernan O'Hagan at full-forward is a big man and a handful and overall they are well balanced and good all over the field.
"But we are a brave side ourselves and they will hold no fears for us. We will respect them alright but if we play as well as we have in the last two games we are in with a great chance and realistically it is a 50/50 game but one we can win."
Coalisland are managed by former Tyrone and Ulster player Damian O'Hagan and are by all accounts a well organised out and while their 0-9 to 0-7 victory over Carrickmore in the Tyrone final was not an outright shock, it was something of a mild surprise against a team that was generally regarded as the form team in the championship. Corey has left no stone unturned in his sides preparation which included a workout in Sunday's venue Brewster Park last weekend.
"We had a 35-minute in-house game on Brewster Park on Sunday to familiarise ourselves with the ground and our free-takers got in some shooting practice and the also practiced taking penalties and it proved a very useful exercise and means that when the lads go up again this weekend the surroundings and the pitch will be familiar to them.”
With the exception of squad member Hugh McDevitt, who has a hamstring injury, Corey has a clean bill of health and expects his panel to be approaching full strength when he finally puts pen to paper to name his team later in the week.
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