Tom Comack email@example.com @dgldemocrat
Killybegs and Burt take centre stage this weekend when they meet in the last of the Michael Murphy Sports and Leisure Senior Football Championship first round games.
The game is in Hibernian Park, Burt, and is a Division Two versus Division Three clash. Killybegs play at the higher level and are seasoned championship campaigners.
The Inishowen men, last season’s Intermediate champions, are back in the Senior Championship for the first time in 16 years.
Killybegs, by virtue of their higher league status and championship pedigree, are favourites but experienced player and team mentor, Kevin Martin, is wary of the Burt challenge.
“Burt are a good side. They were very impressive Intermediate championship winners last year. They beat a good Milford team in a replay,” said the former ace freetaker.
Killybegs are having a mixed season in the league and due to county commitments they have struggled to field a settled team so far this season.
“We have Eoghan Bán and Hugh McFadden with the county seniors and Jack McSharry and Michael Gallagher were with the minors. So we have seen very little of them for the league.”
While the county men are back on board for the clash with Burt, Gary Conaghan, the Killybegs manager, is planning to be without the experienced duo of Barry Cannon and Daniel Breslin.
“Barry and Daniel are away on holidays because they didn’t think the championship was on this weekend.
“With the exception of myself and a couple others we will be fielding a very young team. The notice may be short to prepare for the game, but there is no need in complaining about it. It is just a matter of getting on with it and playing the game.
“In fact we’re looking forward to the game, it will be a welcome relief from the league.”
After Sunday’s away game Killybegs have two home games against Naomh Muire and Termon.
Former county minor and U-21 player, Ronan McLaughlin, managed Burt to last year;s Intermediate Championship success.
And the 1991 Ulster Minor Championship winner is manning the sideline again this season at Hibernian Park.
McLaughlin was a member of the last Burt team to play in the Senior Championship.
That was 2001 and Burt took Termon to three games. Termon eventually emerged the winners in a play-off in Ballybofey.
Ciaran Dowds, Mickey McCann and Martin Donaghy all played against Termon and will be on board again on Sunday against Termon.
“We are looking forward to being back in the Senior Championship,” said Ronan McLaughlin.
“But being realistic we are a Division Three team playing a seasoned championship team in Killybegs.
“If we hold our shape and are patient and stay with Killybegs we might have a chance of pulling off a result.”
Burt are without regular full-back Stephen O’Donnell, back from Germany after being away for three months.
“Stephen is a very good full-back and we will have him on the bench but he has no football played for the last three months.”
The Burt boss is also hoping that county panellist Mark Coyle has shaken off a hamstring injury that has been troubling him in recent weeks.
Burt, after losing their opening two games, have won in their last three games, albeit in Division Three, take form into the tie.