Glenswilly continue to come of age

Alan Foley


Alan Foley

Glenswilly continue to come of age

“The Glen against St Gall’s - that has a nice ring to it,” says Gary McDaid, after taking the Foxhall club to their second RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta SFC.

But that’s exactly where Glenswilly find themselves in following their emphatic 3-19 to 2-6 win over Killybegs.

The Antrim champions, who lifted the All-Ireland club championship three years ago, are coming to Ballybofey on Sunday week.

Glenswilly were county champions two years ago when they defeated the protagonists from Donegal’s footballing fraternity - Naomh Conaill, St Eunan’s, Kilcar and St Michael’s.

But within 12 months Glenswilly’s stock had fallen with relegation from Division One of the All-County Football League.

Whatever dreams there were of championship retention fell by the wayside against Dungloe at the quarter-final stage.

McDaid spent the year captaining the club’s reserves, having stepped down from the position of manager. He then tried to defy the dictum ‘never go back.’

“There were issues that had to be addressed,”McDaid says.

“We were in a bad place. Motivation was low. We were coming from a low base.

“When we sat down together at the start of the year we said we had to get out of Division Two first of all.

“We thought we would give the championship a good rattle but we had probably fallen behind the likes of St Eunan’s, Kilcar, St Michael’s, Naomh Conaill and Four Masters. We had a lot of catching up to do.”

When McDaid looked around his panel he could see it in their whites of their eyes that there was a determination to succeed again. It was the casting vote he wanted when opting to commit.

After a competent start to life in All-County Football League Division Two, Glenswilly’s confidence began to solidify.

They were placed in arguably the most competitive of the groups for the championship and lost 0-14 to 2-7 to Kilcar at Towney in the opening fixture. But they refused to let themselves get locked out.

It was win or bust in the final two matches but it only took 16 seconds for Michael Murphy to score the first goal following approach play from Ciaran Bonner and Brian Farrelly against Bundoran.

Glenswilly won 3-13 to 0-9 and then with Neil Gallagher able to play for the last two minutes, came away from the Bridge with a narrow 0-9 to 0-7 victory over St Michaels.

“In a funny way, losing to Kilcar might’ve been the best thing that ever happened us,” McDaid adds.

“There was no second chance. We had to just go out and win from then on.”

The new-look championship contained no stipulation to stop teams who had met in the group stages from clashing again in the quarter-finals.

When Glenswilly took to the field to take on Kilcar again, there was a huge window of opportunity as reigning champions St Eunan’s had been dumped out by Malin.

Last year’s other semi-finalists - Dungloe, Four Masters and Naomh Conaill - hadn’t even made the knockout stages.

Glenswilly started with 16 men as Farrelly hadn’t made it off the field but Jimmy White’s umpire John Murrin was quick to do the maths. The men in the white jackets had kept their eyes peeled.

Glenswilly eked ahead in a contest that failed to catch fire when Kealan McFadden scored with 12 minutes left.

Kilcar kicked three wides in injury time and Glenswilly sneaked though, 0-8 to 0-7.

It wasn’t the team’s most complete performance of the campaign by any matter of means but showed the club and its players could think their way out of situations.

As a club, Glenswilly had experienced heartbreak when losing to Inniskeen in the 2005 Ulster Intermediate final and, five years later, when Anthony and Leon Thompson scored late goals to seize a spot in the championship final for Naomh Conaill.

But Glenswilly had developed a winning habit and that saw them over the line against Kilcar, just as it would against Ardara.

In the semi-final, Adrian Brennan’s team were overcome on a 1-14 to 0-16 scoreline and Glenswilly, in only their eight year as a senior club, were in the final for a third time.

Colin Kelly scored the only goal of the game and having missed out in 2011, was the club’s driving force in the knockout stages.

But Glenswilly’s dressingroom was a quiet one that Saturday night.

Ardara had trailed by seven points with less than 20 minutes to go. The tactics board went out the window. They threw the kitchen sink at Glenswilly and very nearly smashed the dishes.

Semi-finals can be the most awkward games to judge. If you win them too well you’re setting yourself up for a fall. If you scrape through it’s said you’re riding your luck.

Killybegs had defied their retched form in the All-County League Division One to make it through to the final as the only unbeaten team in the championship. The showpiece would be between one of the traditionalists and the new age upstarts.

Murphy captaining of Ireland in the International Rules Series overshadowed some of the build-up as the Donegal skipper was placed in an awkward position.

But Murphy wasn’t interested in half-doing things and having kicked seven points against Australia on Saturday night in a 57-35 victory Cavan, the 24-year-old scored the first two points for Glenswilly.

At half-time last Sunday, curiously, Martin Slua Boyle’s Killybegs team trailed by a point, 2-3 to 1-7, but would’ve probably been happier with the first half than Glenswilly.

Brendan Faherty got a flick to Christopher Murrin’s lumped ball to deceive Philip O’Donnell before Hugh McFadden palmed in a second Killybegs goal.

Glenswilly, aside those unusual defensive frailties, had played well in patches as they flexed their muscle.

“The goals that went in came from our own mistakes,” McDaid adds.

“There was no pressure on the ball that was coming in, never mind how they ended up in the back of the net. I was angry at that as I felt the goals weren’t because of good play - they were a result of mistakes.”

In each of their previous two championship outings - against Kilcar in the last eight and them when they faced Ardara in the semi-finals - Glenswilly were arguably culpable of taking their foot off the pedal in mediocre second half performances.

Lightening, though, would not strike a third time.

“We had to press ahead and be more ruthless,” McDaid says. “We had to keep going. We didn’t want to give Killybegs any sign of light.”


In Australian Rules, the third quarter is generally referred to as the “championship quarter” and that’s exactly where the Dr Maguire was won.

Killybegs were blown away in the crossfire. Gallagher stabbed home a rebound for a second Glenswilly goal after Antoine O’Hara had saved his first effort. When the tills were counted for the end of day takings, this moment was considered the turning point.

Murphy, soccer-style, twisted inside Jason Noctor, himself an accomplished footballer who has played for both Finn Harps and Sligo Rovers. Murphy is occasionally unplayable and Noctor had little option but to drag him down and receive his marching orders for a second yellow card.

The roof was falling in on Killbegs as Glenswilly began to knock over a succession of points.

“We’ve been threatening to put up a big score in the championship,” McDaid says. “We got 3-17 against Termon in the league the weekend before and 1-14 against Ardara the week before that in the semi-final.”

Glenswilly were completely rampant and Ciaran Bonner’s third goal was the icing on the cake.

Murphy appeared as though he was going to stoop for possession but instead impishly flicked the ball around the corner.

It was Cruyff-esque.

Kealan McFadden scampered into space and Ciaran Bonner burst a gut to get up alongside him.

O’Gara, in goal, was in the loneliest place in MacCumhaill Park. McFadden selflessly squared to enable Bonner to drive into the empty net.

“Michael is just so unselfish in his general play,” McDaid says.

“He just offloaded the ball time after time and gave the ball to the man in the best position. I can’t wait to see the flick he put in for the third goal. It’s definitely one for the scrapbook.”

Between the 32nd and 58th minutes Glenswilly outscored Killybegs 2-10 to 0-1 with Murphy, who didn’t score in that particular spell, assuming the role of playmaker more than score-taker.

Ian Molloy, the match referee who had a fine match himself, blew for time following Murphy’s late free. Glenswilly had won by 16 points - the largest winning margin in the history of the championship.

“People talked a lot in the last few weeks about teams like Ardara and Killybegs and the tradition and pedigree they have.

“We are a young club - only founded in 1982 - and we want to build our own history.

“We want the framed photographs in the hallway of teams that won championships. That, in turn, can inspire younger players to keep the thing going. It’s just brilliant to see people happy.”

And so, Glenswilly continue to come of age. St Gall’s anyone?