The meeting of Ardara and Glenswilly might not exactly fit into the novelty category, but the clash of Malin and Killybegs most definitely does.
Killybegs, with their six championship titles, face Malin, who are appearing in their first senior championship semi-final. They meet in the second of the weekend Donegal Senior Championship last four ties on Sunday. The game is in Sean MacCumhaill Park with throw-in 3 pm.
Malin, despite their lack of championship pedigree, go into Sunday’s game as favourites, and rightly so. They caused the shock of the year when they defeated championship favourites St. Eunan’s last time out in the quarter-final.
And it was not only the defeat of the men from O’Donnell Park that got tongues wagging, but the manner of their impressive and comprehensive 3-12 to 2-7 victory. It was no fluke. Malin were by far the better outfit and played with more passion and fire in their bellies with an abundance of skill, pace and fire power.
“The boys always felt after the first game against St. Eunan’s in O’Donnell Park, they were more than capable of beating them in the quarter-final,” said Malin manager Terence Colhoun.
St. Eunan’s had defeated Malin 2-10 to 1-8 in the group stages in O’Donnell Park.
“The result may have come as a surprise to some people, but it was no surprise to all of us involved with the team. We always felt we were more than capable of beating Eunan’s.”
Malin and Killybegs have met twice so far this season in the league, with the Inishowen men taking full points from both meetings. They had ten points to spare when they claimed the points in Fintra, back in May, 0-15 to 0-5. It was much closer when they sides met at the beginning of September, in Connolly Park. Just six points separated them on that occasion, Malin winning on a 1-12 to 1-6 scoreline.
“We are not reading too much into those wins we had in the league. They will have no bearing on Sunday’s game. Besides we played them twice last year too and it was a win each. They beat us at home and we beat them in Fintra.
“This is championship football on Sunday. They have a good championship record and they were in the final in 2010 and lost to Naomh Conaill. As far as we are concerned it is another championship game against another quality side.”
Killybegs defeated Sean MacCumhaill’s in the quarter-final after defeating Termon and Dungloe, in Eamonn Byrne Memorial Park, and drawing with Gaoth Dobhair in Magheragallon.
They are most definitely reserving their best football for the championship. They have gone 14 games without a win in the league and are already looking forward to Division Two next season from where they were promoted at the end of last season, along with Malin.
“You can’t judge us on the league. I can’t judge us on the league. The boys just don’t seem to have any interest in it at all. Their only interest is in the championship and getting back to MacCumhaill Park and another final,” explained Killybegs boss Martin Boyle.
“They feel they did not do themselves justice in 2010, in the final against Glenties, and they want to get back to show they are a better side than they showed that day.”
Injuries and emigration have hit the Fishermen really hard in the last few seasons and especially this season. First choice players like Shane Boyle, Paul McGinley, Conal Molloy, Brendan Faherty, have all departed for foreign shores. Ciaran Conaghan and Louis McNern have been lost to long term injuries.
Last Sunday, in the league game against Naomh Conaill, the versatile Ronan Boyle was stretchered off and was taken to hospital with a knee injury.
While the injury is not as serious as first feared Martin Boyle is not too optimistic of having Boyle available to him.
“Initially, it was thought he had done ligament damage, but thank God he hadn’t. He twisted a knee cap. He is anxious to play and is optimistic about his chances, but I must confess I’m not, but we will know better later in the week.”
Boyle rested Michael Mullin, Jason Noctor, David Conwell, Owen ‘Ban’ Gallagher, Shane Molloy and Daniel Breslin (all carrying minor knocks) for last weekend’s 3-14 to 0-8 hammering by Naomh Conaill.
“The boys should be all back, though we still have a slight concern for Shane Molloy. He has a hamstring problem. But we are hopeful he will make it.”
Malin’s Charlie Byrne, Stephen McLaughlin and Matthew Byrne missed Malin’s two point win over Ardara on Sunday last in the league. But this was a precautionary measure. They have all been reported fit by Terence Colhoun.
However, corner back Daniel Greene will miss the game after tearing a hamstring against Ardara.
Otherwise, Colhoun has a clean bill of health for Malin’s date with history and a crack at a place in a first ever senior championship final.
The form guide suggests a Malin win and an easy enough win at that. But remember Killybegs are the team with the pedigree when it comes to championship and if Matthew Smyth and Enda Murphy gain a grip around midfield, in Brendan Boyle, Hugh McFadden and Brendan Maguire, Killybegs have the forwards more than capable of poaching the scores to make it interesting and close to the finish.
But if Malin bring their quarter-final hunger and passion to MacCumhaill Park, it is difficult to look past the Inishowen men.