New Donegal champions Glenswilly will fly the Donegal flag in Ulster this Sunday, when they face Cavan champions Cavan Gaels, in the preliminary round of the Ulster Club Senior Championship in Kingspan Breffni Park, Cavan. (Throw-in 3.30 pm)
After their all-conquering run through Donegal and victories over Naomh Conaill, St. Eunan’s, Kilcar and St. Michael’s, Gary McFadden and his team must now set new targets and get ready for the Ulster challenge.
Naomh Conaill’s great run last season all the way to the Ulster final before losing to eventual All-Ireland champions, Crossmaglen, has set the standard and the expectation is that the Donegal champions are now a match for the best in Ulster.
Glenswilly’s biggest problem is getting over being first time champions and all the celebrations that go with it. But they must leave all that behind them and set their sights on doing well in the province, if they are to make their mark on the bigger stage.
“The celebrations are on hold and our whole focus now is on Ulster this week. But being honest we only began talking about the Cavan game on Sunday evening after our league game in Malin. Last week once the celebrations died down all our attention was on the Malin game and surviving in the league. This week the total focus is now on Cavan Gaels,” said Gary McDaid, joint Glenswilly manager with John McGinley.
“Our target at the start of the year was to be still playing championship football in September and to make the county final. And now that we have that goal achieved we must set new goals and that is to put our best foot forward on Sunday and give it our best shot against Cavan Gaels.”
While Sunday’s game is Glenswilly’s first taste of Ulster senior football, they have experienced provincial football before. That was in 2005 when they went on a great run in the Intermediate championship to reach the final before losing out to Inniskeen from Monaghan. The Farney champions stole it after being gifted a late goal following a mix-up in the Glenswilly defence.
Gary McDaid and John McGinley have up to a dozen of that team still available to them with Neil Gallagher, Ciaran Bonner, Brian ‘Shorty’ McDaid, James Pat McDaid, Joe Gibbons and skipper McFadden, who all featured in 2005 still about and holding down key positions.
Micheal Murphy, Leon Kelly, Kealan McFadden, Darren McGinley, Rory McDaid, Ruairi Crawford have come up from underage and full-back EamonWard has joined from Monaghan club Clontibret.
Cavan Gaels are experienced Ulster campaigners having played in nine of the last 11 Ulster championship campaigns, their most recent back in 2009. However, it has to be added that they have done so with little success. Their best showing was in ‘09 when they put St. Gall’s of Antrim to the pin of their collar in the first round in Kingspan Breffni Park. The Antrim champions went all the way in 2009 to win the All-Ireland.
Current star Seanie Johnston, is Cavan Gaels best known player, but all of the starting 15 have played with Cavan at some level. Goalkeeper Owen Elliot, full-back Cathal Collins, centre half-back Eamon Reilly, wing back Darren Rabbitt along with Enda King and Dominic Reilly at midfield and Michael Lyng in the half-forward line have all worn the blue and white at senior level.
New kids on the block Martin Dunne, Kevin Meehan, Darragh Sexton, Niall Smith were all members of this year’s Ulster winning Cavan U-21 side.
In all ten of the Gaels squad won Ulster medals this season with Cavan at either U-21 or minor level. By all accounts they have a very strong bench with former county men Cormac Nelligan, Karl Crotty, Paul O’Donnell and Daniel Graham all among the reserves.
With the exception of one defeat to Ballinagh - which they later reversed in the semi-final - they have been untested in Cavan and as well as dethroning the champions Kingscourt, they also had it easy in the county final against Castlerahan as they emerged 4-11 to 0-7 winners to claim a 12th Cavan championship.
Neil Gallagher missed last weekend’s game against Malin with a throat infection but Gary McDaid is confident of having his big midfielder though he did state that Ciaran Bonner (knee) and Kealan McFadden (hamstring) are rated doubtful.