In the aftermath of his team’s memorable win over Burt in the Donegal Senior Hurling final, Sean MacCumhaill’s manager, Eamonn McAuley, said his team was good enough to challenge on the All-Ireland stage.
On Sunday afternoon, they face a very tricky opening hurdle when they meet Na Magha of Derry in the Ulster Junior Championship quarter-final at Celtic Park.
It’s three weeks since MacCumhaill’s were crowned Donegal champions for only the second time in their history. Their 2-13 to 2-9 win over Burt underlined the progress that McAuley’s side has made in recent times.
“Every year, the players are getting that bit more experience,” the manager said.
“We’ve got good players and the young players who have come through are getting more and more experience of playing in big games.
“This is another big game on Sunday and we’re looking forward to it.”
MacCumhaill’s had initially been told that they’d received a bye to the semi-finals in Ulster. However, they are now preparing for a semi-final against an experienced Na Magha side who competed at senior level in Derry.
“The same thing happened us last year,” McAuley said.
“We ended up playing against Coleraine and we were without 12 of our players because of one thing or another.
“They beat us by seven points but they went all the way to the All Ireland final.”
Na Magha were well beaten in their county quarter-final by a far superior Kevin Lynch’s (8-24 to 0-8) and with that game taking place back in early August, they’ve not had a competitive championship game for seven weeks.
That said, the Derry side is blessed with no end of quality and players who have played at county level. Alan Grant, who plays at midfield, has won a Christy Ring All-Star award while Brendan Quigley and Brendan Douban are two other key men. Goalkeeper Barry Robinson has also played for Derry while free-taker Deaglan Foley is their main marksman.
Given their impressive display against Burt, and their excellent recent run of form, MacCumhaill’s can approach Sunday’s game with plenty of confidence. The team is unlikely to show too many changes although Aaron McAuley was this week stuggling to shake off a chest infection, and due to work commitments, Ciaran Matthewson may not be included in the starting 15.
“Ciaran will be there, but he may have to start on the bench,” McAuley said.
“Other than that, we should have everyone available.”