Barring another draw, the finalists in the All Sports Intermediate Championship final should be known on Sunday evening.
Aodh Ruadh and Naomh Colmcille battle for the second time in six days in their replay on Saturday evening while Termon and Buncrana meet in the second semi-final on Sunday.
Aodh Ruadh v Naomh Colmcille - MacCumhaill Park, Saturday, 8pm.
These sides served up a very entertaining encounter on Sunday last in Letterkenny with the Newtowncunningham side coming from eight points down early in the second half to secure a draw. Indeed, they could just as easily have won it with both sides having chances in added time.
Aodh Ruadh have more experience, but Naomh Colmcille have shown that there is plenty of life after Barry O’Hagan, the former Armagh star, who was their driving force in recent years.
For manager Joe Higgins, it was a real rollercoaster on Sunday last. “If you had asked me with twenty minutes to go, I felt it would be tough getting back, but I never thought we were out of it.
“I thought then we were going to win it and then felt funny at end, relived and disappointed, very flat,” said Joe, who feels the replay is a great opportunity for a lot of young men.
Asked about the way the side have coped without O’Hagan, he says: “Barry was only there for one game when I came in. I didn’t know the influence he had on them.
“The lads are playing for me now is all that I know. It didn’t affect the way they have performed. Sometimes when players lose important personalities - like St. Eunan’s without Devenney. players sometimes become very dependant on one player, but they feel the shackles are off when they have to become more self reliant.
“No one man is greater than the rest. It was 19 players that kept us in the match on Sunday,” said Joe, who had particular praise for Willie Gillespie and Matthew Crossan.
“I like to think I’d be confident that we would get a performance on Saturday and hopefuly that would be enough,” said Joe, who quickly added that it will be tough.
“When you’re playing against players with senior championship medals like Niall McCready and Brian Roper it will be tough and they gave us trouble.
“In improving we have to beat teams like Ballyshannon. Getting beaten would be a massive disappointment though,” said Joe.
For Aodh Ruadh joint manager, Philip O’Reilly, there was obvious disappointment at losing such a large lead.
“We’d be disappoointed with our second half. We thought we should have finished it out. We’re still hopeful and we will have to put in a better performance over 60 minutes,” said Philip, who agreed that people said it was a good game, but that was not easy to enjoy when you are involved. “I suppose being eight points up with 20, 25 minutes to go, you shouldn’t lose.
“We’d be reasonably confident that we can improve,” said Philip, who feels that the young guys in the side are really getting the benefit of the older lads.
“They’re getting a good chance. The more games they get at that level will help the younger guys. It is a great experience and hopefully we can come out the right side of the scoreline this time around,” said Philip.
The Ballyshannon side will be without Barry Ward for the replay and Ciron Whoriskey and Eamonn McGrath are nursing minor injuries, while Naomh Colmcille have a clean bill of health.
Being played under lights may be a factor, but on form Naomh Colmcille probably hold the advantage but it will be very close again.
Verdict: Naomh Colmcille.
Termon v Buncrana - O’Donnell Park, Sunday. 3pm
In scientific terms, Termon and Buncrana will have equal but opposite reactions on one each other’s season.
As well as Sunday’s IFC semi-final, the two teams have to meet twice in the closing stages of the All-County League Division Three.
Termon, who have three to play, have a seven-point cushion on Buncrana and are two behind league leaders Carndonagh with two games in hand. So, realistically, Sunday’s duo are still in the mix.
For a Termon side who reached two senior county finals in the last decade, intermediate level mightn’t be the ideal scenario but player-manager Paddy McDaid insists his team are one in transition.
“We played in the county final against St Eunan’s only four years ago and we’ve only a handful of those players left,” he said. “Now, we’ve promoted a lot of the reserves and underage players, so it’s a case of changing times.”
After relegation from Division Two and demotion from the SFC, Termon’s success in both the county and national Comórtas Peile na Gaeltachta, where they defeated St Naul’s in the final, brought optimism.
At 31, McDaid is younger than some of his players but with experienced figures like Daireann Gibson, Anthony McGrenra, Johnny McCafferty and Trevor Alcorn; the 20-somethings Michael Boyle, Shaun O’Donnell and Christy Connaghan make big impacts.
Now, McDaid has introduced teenagers like Aidan Sweeney and Darragh McDaid, who has just returned from an ankle break. Jimmy Gallagher will miss out on Sunday due to holiday commitments.
Termon had 10 points to spare over Urris in their quarter-final first leg last month, winning 2-14 to 1-4, with Connaghan and Ollie Doherty the goalscorers. Then, in Clonmany, Connaghan scored a fine person tally of 1-12 in the 2-15 to 0-8 victory.
“It’s been a long season as there’s 20 games in Division Three,” McDaid continued. “Getting out of that is important. But we’re in a championship semi-final so there’s an opportunity there.
“We’re not at the level to compete at senior at this exact point in time but we’re happy to build up from the intermediate, where we can gain experience.”
In championship terms at least, opponents Buncrana are a little more hardened this year having come through from the preliminary round.
Odhran Doherty scored four points in the 1-11 to 1-6 first leg win over Burt, while Willian McLaughlin was the goalscorer, before Garbhan Friel found the net in the second leg at Hibernian Park in a 1-9 to 1-7 victory.
Brothers Ronan and Adrian Doherty were sent off in those respective ties but the former is due back on Sunday.
Then, after a 0-12 to 0-10 away win over Carndonagh, Mark Crossan’s team came through another bruising encounter 0-11 to 1-5 with Ryan Bradley dismissed for a second yellow, alongside Carndonagh duo Oliver McConalogue and Dominic Doherty.
Like McDaid, Crossan has been bedding in a string of youngsters, players like Calvin Jones, county minor Kevin O’Loughlin, Ryan Curran and Simon Cuffe.
The centre-fielder alongside Bradley, Peter McLaughlin, was forced to pull out of the Donegal U-17 panel this year with a groin and then an ankle injury but the teen is back hitting the higher gears.
For Crossan it will be a special occasion on Sunday as the 1992 All-Ireland winning panellist will take charge of a team at his old St Eunan’s stomping ground.
“Because of the fact we’ve not played Termon as yet,” he said. “In the league, we really would need to beat them twice and other results would go for us. The championship is on the day of course and from a personal level, I’m looking forward to getting back to O’Donnell Park. As for the team, hopefully the pitch will suit us as we’ve a big pitch at Scarvey.”