The meeting of MacCumhaill’s and Glenswilly at O’Donnell Park on Saturday (4pm), brings together two teams who at one stage, looked in big trouble in their respective groups.
Both lost their opening championship fixtures, MacCumhaills in Group C away to Malin, and Glenswilly in Group A, away to Ardara.
But two wins each later, and all of a sudden they’re one game away from a senior semi-final.
Glenswilly ended up topping their group, finishing with two wins along with fellow-qualifiers Dungloe.
MacCumhaill’s, in their final game, got the win they needed over Naomh Muire, to ensure qualification from their group along with Malin.
Given their championship pedigree, Glenswilly will be considered favourites to win this one.
That said, they haven’t set the world alight this season and their loss in Ardara in the championship back in May, came at a time when they were really struggling in Division One of the All County League.
They’ve managed to find a bit of form at a crucial time in their season and with two league games to play, look well placed to survive in the top flight.
Their manager, Michael Canning, is playing down the significance of facing a team from Division Two this weekend.
“It’s probably as close to a 50-50 game as any of the quarter-finals,” he said.
“MacCumhaill’s are a good side. They’ve got pace in attack, which is something that has troubled us in the past.
“We met them at our place in the group stages last year and they ran us very close in that game. If we were to base anything on that match, Saturday’s game will be close.”
Canning’s side, despite their losing start in Group A, ended up topping the group after wins over Dungloe and Bundoran. The victory against Dungloe, the manager suggested, gave them great confidence going to Bundoran.
“We got the goals at the right time in Bundoran and came through in the end,” he added.
Canning also gave an update on his two key men, Neil Gallagher and Michael Murphy, saying they hadn’t trained of late, and he would no more on their fitness closer to the weekend. He did say he expects both to be okay.
In the MacCumhaill’s camp, team manager, Damian Devaney, said his players are looking forward to the challenge of Glenswilly.
“We’ve hit a bit of form at the right time,” he said.
“We didn’t get off to the best of starts in our group, but to be honest, we were a bit unlucky down in Malin. We missed a penalty at the end.
“But we did well to get the wins over Glenfin and then Naomh Muire. I think our group showed, if nothing else, just how competitive Division Two is this year.”
MacCumhaills will welcome Stephen O’Reilly back from suspension after he missed the last group win over Naomh Muire. That match will be remembered for six sendings off, three from each team, although James Lynch was the only MacCumhaill’s player to receive a straight red. He has returned to Australia since, so his place at midfield will go to the returning O’Reilly.
Otherwise, MacCumhaill’s will field along expected lines and Devaney, in his first season in charge at MacCumhaill Park after managing Na Rossa last year, is looking forward to taking on the Glenswilly challenge.
“We all know what experience and talent they have in their side,” he said.
“Never mind Neil Gallagher and Michael Murphy, they have so many players with championship medals under their belts.”