Dublin full-forward Eoghan O’Gara will, thankfully, not be able to wear the No. 14 jersey on Saturday night when Donegal travel to Croke Park, but he still expects his side to win the game.
O’Gara, with strong Donegal connections, picked up a groin injury in the warm-up last weekend against Down in Newry and is disappointed that he will have to sit out the game.
His mum Ann (nee Brennan) is from Donegal Town and his uncle, Manus, hopes to bring Eoghan to Glenties in the next few weeks to make the presentations to All-Ireland basketball winners, St. Columba’s.
“Manus asked me to come up and bring the Sam Maguire. I told him it was the only way Donegal were going to get the Sam Maguire,” joked Eoghan. “I also wanted to bring the Sam Maguire up to my grandmother, Eileen.”
Photographs are an important reminder to O’Gara of the special year the Dubs had in 2011. The photo above shows him celebrating after the final whistle in the All-Ireland final last September. It had been a busy year for O’Gara as he became a father on the Friday before the final, while there was disappointment as he had lost out on a starting place after breaking his wrist in the Leinster final a couple of months earlier.
“They are a very special group of players and the fact that they sought me out after the final whistle for that photo shows it.
“Last year was a frustrating year. After breaking my wrist I found it hard to get back into the starting line up but it was great to get on against Donegal in the semi-final,” said Eoghan.
“That game (against Donegal) was the toughest game ever and it was probably Dublin’s extra experience which got them through in the end. We have a lot of respect for Donegal but the experience stood to us and it gave us the confidence to go on and win the final,” says Eoghan.
“I was looking forward to playing against Donegal again on Saturday but that will not happen now,” said Eoghan, who said 2012 had been great so far, winning a Sigerson medal with DCU and getting regular football.
“It is disappointing not to be playing but I have to rest the injury and will not be rushing it.”
O’Gara was in sensational scoring form at the beginning of the year, hitting 1-5 against Laois and he was probably the player of the year for DCU as they lifted the Sigerson Cup, taking the No. 14 college jersey when Donegal’s Michael Murphy was out injured.
For Saturday night, O’Gara expects that Dublin - even without Bernard Brogan and himself - should have enough to get the win.
“We slipped up against Down last week. We probably read too much into our win against Armagh the previous week, but we know what we will be up against on Saturday night,” said Eoghan. “We have a lot of new guys in the panel this year and competition for places is very good.”
O’Gara, who plays for Templeogue/Synge Street, knows his strong Donegal roots - apart from the Brennans in Donegal Town - his father Fergal O’Gara has strong Glencolmcille connections where cousins Paddy and Moya O’Byrne still reside - will be wishing him the best in the summer but will be behind Donegal on Saturday evening.
“We used to get up to Donegal for holidays in the summer and at Easter but as we got older we didn’t get up as much,” says Eoghan.
The injury picked up last week has provided O’Gara with a window of opportunity to make another trip to the north west in the next few weeks, but his main aim for 2012 is to fully recover from injury and get back on the edge of the square for Pat Gilroy’s men.
“Every team needs someone who can work on the edge of the square and Pat has had faith in men,” said Eoghan.
With the form he has shown already in 2012, the Dublin manager will give the big full-forward plenty of time to get back to full fitness. O’Gara is central to their plans for this year and is the perfect foil for the silky skills of Bernard Brogan and Diarmuid Connolly.
Thankfully, he will be on the sideline for Saturday night so let’s hope Donegal can take advantage.