It is high noon out west on Saturday as neighbours and arch rivals Dungloe and Gaoth Dobhair square up in a battle for survival in the top flight of Donegal football.
Saturday’s showdown is in Rosses Park, the scene of many great battles down the years, between two of the county’s old powers of the game in the county. (Throw in 1.30 pm.)
Billed as a Division One relegation battle this tie is about much more than that just the right to remain in the top division. It is all about bragging rights and standing in the county’s pecking order.
“It is a huge game for both clubs,” insisted Dungloe manager, Declan Bonner, a former championship winning manager with Gaoth Dobhair in 2006.
“We will be going all out to win it and stay in Division One and I have no doubt Gaoth Dobhair will be going all out to do the same. It is going to be a real battle for survival and it will all come down to who wants it the most and as the old cliché goes, who gets the break on the day. It is going to be a real battle.
“I watched Gaoth Dobhair on Sunday against Glenswilly, and I was very impressed. They played really well. It was possibly their best performance of the year and they seem to be coming into form at the right time. They also came from behind the previous week against St. Eunan’s.”
Bonner confirmed that former All-Star and Dungloe’s leading forward, Adrian Sweeney, is unlikely to feature in Saturday’s shoot out. He also confirmed that Adrian’s brother, Raymond and his team’s regular full-back, Jamie Sweeney, are definitely out and have no hope of facing the green and whites.
“Adrian is struggling with a groin injury in recent weeks. He missed our last game against Glenswilly and the medics have told him he is going to have to rest for at least six weeks. He is undergoing intensive treatment and we are keeping our fingers crossed. He will most definitely not start whatever about giving us a few minutes at some stage. But at this stage we are planning to be without him.”
However, in relation to Raymond Sweeney and Jamie Sweeney, Bonner is much more clear.
“Raymond and Jamie will definitely not play. Raymond broke his collar bone against Glenswilly in the championship, and will not play again until next year and Jamie is sidelined with a back injury that saw him miss the early part of the season.
“They are three very experienced players and the type of player we could do with having. But we have a number of very good young lads that have broken into the team this year like Conor Greene, the Scally twins Jack and Eoghan; David McCarron and Darren Curran and even though they are very young and still minors I have great confidence in them and I have no doubt they will be up to the challenge.”
Eamon McGee and James Gallagher picked up knocks against Glenswilly on Sunday, but other than that, Alan Boyd, a member of the Gaoth Dobhair management team, has reported no major injury worries.
County panellist Peter McGee, currently in Australia, will miss the game but young Proinnsias Gallagher, who missed the Glenswilly game, after making an impressive debut the previous week against champions St. Eunan’s, will be back.
Boyd, who shares the management duties with Tom Beag Gillespie, Martin Boyle and Declan Kelly, and also managed Gaoth Dobhair to senior championship success in 2002, is at one with Declan Bonner on the importance of the game.
“It is a big game and one neither side will want to lose as neither will want to drop out of the top division,” said Boyd, who feels his own side, with successive wins over St. Eunan’s and Glenswilly in the last two weeks, are enjoying their best run of the season.
“We have really turned it around in the last two games. We sat down before the St. Eunan’s game and had a good chat about things and our situation which was not great at the time.
“But we decided to make a bid for survival and it really turned for us in the second half against St. Eunan’s. We were 0-7 to 0-4 down at half-time in that game and we came back to win by two.
“And the boys really turned it on against Glenswilly on Sunday and now it is matter of repeating that performance for one more game on Saturday, which is not always that easy. But we have a chance of staying up and we will give it our best shot.”
The sides have met twice this year with the spoils equally shared. Dungloe won in Rosses Park, 0-8 to 0-5 - the very first game of the season - with Gaoth Dobhair claiming the points on a 1-8 to 0-3 scoreline in Maghergallon.
Of the two Gaoth Dobhair seem to be the form team following those victories in recent weeks over St. Eunan’s and Glenswilly, especially in last Sunday’s play-off 4-9 to 1-7 rout of last year’s Dr. Maguire holders.
Dungloe, on the other hand, lost heavily to Glenswilly in the fog on Sunday week last in Glenswilly.
In the absence of a number of big name players Raymond and Jamie Sweeney and with a serious doubt hanging over the participation of Adrian Sweeney, not to mention the form guide, it all points to a victory and survival for the Kevin Cassidy, Eamon and Neil McGee powered Gaoth Dobhair.
But this game is in Rosses Park, and given the great rivalry and tradition between the two clubs this game, like games of old, takes on a life of its own.
Noel McBride, Adrian Hanlon, Shaun Sharkey, Paul McGarvey, Mark Sweeney and Cory Gallagher and company along with Bonner’s young tigers will not give up their Division One status without one hell of a battle. Don’t rule out overtime to decide it!
Verdict: Gaoth Dobhair.