Games of the year
We were treated to the two best games of the year on Bank Holiday Monday with the U-21A and B finals.
Both contests were played in the proper spirit and the attacking football on view was as good as anything we have witnessed in a long time.
In his column this week Manus Boyle is critical that the semi-finals and finals were squeezed into the weekend, but I’m not sure that I totally agree. There was a certain amount of excitement built up around the competition because the latter stages were played in such a short time. And it certainly is an improvement when the final was being played in the first week of January a number of years ago.
Congratulations to Gaoth Dobhair and Killybegs on their successes and well done to Aodh Ruadh and Letterkenny Gaels, who both played their part in two thoroughly competitive games.
The winning Gaoth Dobhair team are all underage again next year. The senior club have been in the doldrums in recent years, but based on this group of players, they could be contenders at senior level in the very near future.
Great to see Michael Carroll stepping up to the plate at midfield. And the pace that the side have in the likes of Naoise O Baoill and Cian Mulligan is frightening at times.
Aodh Ruadh, too, are up to Division Two of the league and their team was a little younger than Gaoth Dobhair’s, with more minor players involved. But there are encouraging signs for them also.
The B final was just as competitive and free-flowing and two 17-year-olds caught the eye for the winners, Killybegs, Michael Gallagher hitting 1-5 from play in the second half and Shaun Gorrell getting two vital points when Letterkenny Gaels were back in the game in the final minutes.
Well done also to the two referees, who contributed to the occasion, James Connors and Jimmy White. I was at the semi-final between Aodh Ruadh and Naomh Conaill on Friday night in Ardara also where Jimmy White was also in charge. He is the best referee we have seen in this county in my time involved and can get through a game without any fuss, dealing with anything that has to be dealt with, and still allowing the game to flow. The A final on Monday would probably not have been as free-flowing without him.
Glenswilly come up short
On Sunday in Newry, Glenswilly didn’t do what they normally do so well - close out the game. If they had got that second goal early in the second half to go five clear, they could well have been getting ready for an Ulster semi-final.
Spare a thought, though, for Cathal Gallagher. It seemed that his effort for goal was deflected for a ‘45’, and then almost immediately, he was penalised for the high tackle on Conor Laverty, which led to the Kilcoo penalty. There was no doubting that it was a penalty, but the red card was very harsh. Indeed, it is a recurring theme nowadays that players who are tackled around the shoulder area are going down dramatically. Maybe it is even being coached. Once the contact is made, the feet go up in the air and the player automatically tumbles dramatically backwards.
Overall, though, Glenswilly can have no excuses. Michael Murphy, despite being double marked at all times, did his best to create things, while Neil Gallagher was also given special treatment around midfield so that he wouldn’t be providing any killer passes.
On a separate issue, I was approached in Ardara on Friday night last about my comments recently again reiterating my opinion that Michael Murphy was the best player that Donegal had ever produced.
The Ardara man said he would take issue with that opinion, saying that Michael Murphy was the second best player that Donegal had produced. Thinking he was going to name someone from the distant past, I asked him who did he think was the best. “Neil Gallagher,” says he.
It’s what makes sport so unique. Everyone has an opinion.
Indeed, there is a man in Kilcar who has argued with me that Michael Murphy wouldn’t make the top ten all-time Donegal footballers!