GAELIC GAMES

Senior Championship preview: Eight intriguing contests to come over Saturday and Sunday  

Gaoth Dobhair's trip to St Michaels the big game

Tom Comack

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Tom Comack

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sport@donegaldemocrat.com

Championship preview

Action from last weekend's Donegal Senior Championship as Glenfin and Glenswilly played out a draw at Pairc Taobhoige PICTURE: THOMAS GALLAGHER

Champions Gaoth Dobhair are once again involved in the big tie of the weekend when they face St Michaels in Dunfanaghy on Saturday afternoon.
This Group A game which was originally fixed for Saturday evening, now has a throw-in time of 3.30pm to avoid a clash with the All-Ireland final replay meeting of Dublin and Kerry which throws-in at 6pm.
It is one of three games in the Michael Murphy Sports and Leisure Senior Championship fixed for Saturday. The others are Dungloe against Naomh Conaill in Group B and Milford and Glenfin in Group C.
The Moyle View Park clash of Milford and Glenfin has also been brought forward to avoid a clash with the All-Ireland replay and it is now timed to throw-in at 3.30pm
However, Dungloe and Naomh Conaill could not agree on an alternative time and it now goes ahead at the appointed 6.30pm.
There are five Senior Championship games on Sunday at staggered times with championship favourites Kilcar away to Bundoran. In the other games, Killybegs arer at home to Sean MacCumhaills in Fintra, Termon are away to Malin, St Eunans host Ardara and Glenswilly entertain Four Masters in Pairc Naomh Columba.

Group A
Saturday, September 14
The Bridge, Dunfanaghy, throw-in 3.30pm
St Michael's v Gaoth Dobhair

For the second week in a row Gaoth Dobhai,r the defending champions are involved in the match of the round. And after last weekend’s draw against St Eunans in Magheragallon, this is a huge game for Gaoth Dobhair - one they cannot afford to lose.
They face a St Michaels team who began last weekend as the third ranked team in the group behind Gaoth Dobhair and St Eunans.
But now after last Saturday night’s 14 point win away to Ardara, the men from the Bridge appear to hold all the cards going into their last two games at home to Gaoth Dobhair on Saturday afternoon and St Eunans the following weekend.
Martin McElhinney suffered a serious facial injury against Ardara which necessitated an overnight in Altnagelvin Hospital in Derry, and is out for the rest of the season.
One suspects there should be a lot of straight talking in Gaoth Dobhair this week. Their championship aspirations could be all over by Saturday evening.
Verdict: Draw.

Sunday, September 15
O’Donnell Park, throw-in 3pm
St Eunans v Ardara

I suspect the more the past week wore on, the more St Eunans will have been regretting not claiming Gaoth Dobhair’s scalp last Sunday evening in Magheragallon.
Tactically, Richard Thornton and his backroom team got their tactics and game-plan spot on. They soaked up early Gaoth Dobhair pressure in the first quarter before pushing on in the second to go in 0-4 to 0-2 up at half-time.
Their bravery in pressing at the start of the third quarter when faced with a stiff breeze was also admirable.
Their problem this week is that while they had the best part of six months to prepare for the Gaoth Dobhair challenge, they have only six days to prepare for Ardara.
Ardara suffered a heavy home defeat against St Michaels in the first round, a result which highlighted the gulf between the top half of Division One and the top of Division Two.
Verdict. St Eunans

SEE ALSO: Donegal Intermediate Championship preview 

Group B
Saturday, September 14
Rosses Park, Dungloe, throw-in 6.30pm
Dungloe v Naomh Conaill

Dungloe chalked up 1-18 yet were still on the end of an eight point defeaty courtesy of Oisin Gallen and Sean MacCumhaills in Ballybofey on Saturday night..
Naivety in defence rather than frailties was the source of Dungloe’s problems and it is hard to see Francie Martin coming up with a defensive plan to tighten up at the back in the space of a week. It is a bigger project than that.
But in Adam Neilly and Conor Greene they have the attacking duo to ask questions of the Naomh Conaill.

A wonderful display of high fielding during the Naomh Conaill v Killybegs Group B clash last weekend


Naomh Conaill don’t have an Oisin Gallen (he scored 2-9 against Dungloe) though Eoghan McGettigan has the potential if given room.
The game is in Rosses Park which is worth a few points to the locals but after Martin Regan’s team’s clinical defeat of Killybegs, it would register as a huge shock if there was anything other than a Naomh Conaill win.

Sunday, September 15
Eamonn Byrne Memorial Park, Fintra, throw-in 3.30pm
Killybegs v Sean Mac Cumhaills

One thing’s for sure, Oisin Gallen won’t be allowed the same freedom in this clash as he was allowed last Saturday night against Dungloe in MacCumhaill Park. Killybegs manager John Cunningham and coach Rory Gallagher, a disciple of the blanket defence, will make sure of that.
This is a huge tie in the race for the second qualifying place in the group. It is generally accepted that Naomh Conaill will top the group and claim the number one quarter-final qualifying spot.
Killybegs will be anxious to bounce back from last weekend’s six point defeat in Davy Brennan Memorial Park. A win in Glenties was always going to be a bonus for Hugh McFadden and company.
The home games against MacCumhaills and Dungloe would have been the target games once the draw was made. But they face a MacCumhaills team buoyed by that eight point win over Dungloe.
Verdict: Sean MacCumhaills

Group C
Saturday, September 14
Moyle View Park, throw-in 3.30pm
Milford v Glenfin

Milford left the disappointment of league relegation behind them with a four point win over struggling Four Masters in Tír Chonaill Park.
Cathal McGettigan once again top scored for Milford and along with Luke Barrett, Christopher Barrett, Kane Barrett and Darragh Black, they will carry the main hopes of the Moyle Park faithful on Saturday afternoon against Glenfin.
Glenfin, last year’s Intermediate champions, came close to pulling off a shock win over Glenswilly last weekend in the first round.
It took an injury time equaliser from Michael Murphy to snatch a dramatic draw for the 2016 senior champions to deny the locals a famous win.
On the back of last weekend’s performance, Glenfin boosted by the inclusion of Aaron McGlynn and Stephen Ward, both of whom impressed against Glenswilly,will head to Moyle View Park in confident mood.
Milford were a little unlucky to be relegated and came out on the wrong side of a number of results in a very strong Division One.
Verdict: Milford

Sunday, September 15
Pairc Naomh Columba throw-in 6pm
Glenswilly V Four Masters

Glenswilly, the favourites to win the group, got out of jail last weekend courtesy once again of Michael Murphy.
But with two home games to come against Four Masters and Milford, they are still favourites to take the number one spot.
The 2016 champions have a lot of familiar faces in their line-up, although they are in something of a transition.
Caoimhin Marley, Mark McAteer and Ryan Diver have made the step up from underage in the last year and are now holding permanent berths.
It has been a disappointing season for Four Masters. They have already been relegated to Division Three and last weekend suffered afour point defeat to Milford. With Glenfin away after the Glenswilly game, they are already facing a championship relegation battle.
Barry Dunnion is the only member of the old guard still featuring in what’s a very young and inexperienced Masters side.
Verdict; Glenswilly

Group D
Sunday, September 15
Connolly Park, Malin, throw-in 3pm
Malin v Termon

Termon went into last weekend’s first round tie with Bundoran with a place in the last eight of the championship a real possibility. But Alan Russell’s late dramatic winning point for Bundoran means Paddy McDaid and Termon will have to readjust and first and foremost the target now is to take the two precious points from their clash with Malin.
With championship hotshots Kilcar the opposition away in the third round it is now a case of picking up the win to avoid being dragged into a relegation play-off.
Termon expect to have top scorer Daire McDaid back from injury for the Connolly Park clash.
Malin are a much changed side this season, especially in defence. Christopher McLaughlin, Dan McDaid, Paul McLaughlin and Stephen McLaughlin are the big name players in the Malin line-up.
With McDaid back and with Enda McCormack having a game under his belt after a lengthy lay-off, Termon have the attack to trouble Malin.
Verdict: Termon

Sunday, September 15
Gaelic Park, Bundoran, throw-in 3pm
Bundoran v Kilcar

Bundoran took a giant step towards a place in the quarter-finals with last Sunday’s one point away win over Termon.
But they are very much the underdogs when they face hot championship favourites Kilcar who scored 3-16 against Malin in their first round meeting in Towney.
Eoin McHugh hit 2-2, Patrick McBrearty posted 0-6 and Ciaran McGinley scored 0-4 from midfield for Kilcar last Sunday.
Ryan McHugh, Michael Hegarty, Mark McHugh and Conor Doherty also played well for Kilcar who welcomed Stephen McBrearty back from long term injury.
Bundoran had a good league campaign and finished midtable, but they have a poor record against Kilcar in recent seasons.
The weight of expectation is on Paul Murphy, Paul Brennan, Shane McGowan, Alan Russell, Gary Clancy, Michael McEniff and Jamie Brennan if Bundoran are to keep this tie competitive. Bundoran have a tricky away tie against Malin next weekend while Kilcar are home to Termon in their last group game.
Verdict: Kilcar