Six years ago Niall Harley touched an O’Neill’s ball for the first time and now he will be leading Donegal out on Croke Park on August 31st.
The Aodh Ruadh midfilder was expecting a tough battle on Saturday and Roscommon did not disappoint him as they made it very difficult for Donegal, who had just two points to spare in a nailbiting finish.
“It was unbelievably tough out there. They parked the bus in the backline and we tried to break through. Thankfully we got there in the end,” said Niall.
Harley admits that it was difficult to play against the Connacht runner-up, especially in the conditions.
“It can be very annoying (playing against that system). You’re running up the pitch hoping there won’t be the wall, but it was there every time. We just kept working and having patience and we got throug,” said Niall, who spent most of his young life in Cape Town, South Africa, where he was born.
“After the Ulster final, we knew what we were going to in for against Roscommon. It was going to be a tough, hard battle. So we just got our heads focussed for this game,” said Niall.
“We weren’t that content at half-time. We could have pushed on a lot more and we had a lot of wides. But that happens on a wet day when it is difficult to get control,” said Niall, who said that the management told them at half-time that they had to push on and forget about the weather and be more clinical.”
The captain admitted that the final minutes were not very nice to watch with Roscommon camped in the Donegal half.
“It was nervewracking at the end. At the start of the second half we were on top and dominating and then they got the goal which killed us. But we kept working hard and thankfully we got through it in the end.”
The next step for Donegal is the All-Ireland semni-final in Croke Park and Niall is looking forward to that.
“I can’t believe it that I will now be playing in Croke Park. I only started playing Gaelic when I was 12. I’ve been to Croke Park many’s a time just watching Donegal, and I just can’t believe I will be playing there now.
“It is just all amazing,” said Niall, when reminded that he will be leading Donegal out.
“We will take whoever comes out (Dublin or Cork). We have a great bunch of lads who have been there for three years now under Declan. We are a proper team,” said Niall.