There is a ‘vibe’ back in Ballyshannon and Aodh Ruadh footballers are feeling good about themselves once again.
They are flying high at the top of the AllSportStore.com Division Two League table.
As they approach the halfway mark in the league (they play their eighth game this Friday evening against Ardara), they have a perfect record of seven wins from seven games. Their points tally of 14 leaves them five ahead of Naomh Columba and six ahead of Ardara, who are in third place.
They are the only club in all five divisions with a perfect league record.
And after a six season struggle to escape from Division Three there is some surprise at how well the boys from Fr Tierney Park are faring in the higher league.
For a team that had set their sights on consolidating their position in the second tier Aodh Ruadh are now looking up and have a whole new set of targets for 2017.
Manager James O’Donnell, in his first term as manager, has worked with his predecessors Peter Gallagher and Packie McGrath over the last two season, even admits to being pleasantly surprised.
“Being honest we didn’t know what to expect; it is our first time playing in Division Two in six years,” O’Donnell told the Democrat.
“We knew we had a crop of young players coming through but we didn’t know how they would get on playing at the higher level.”
But those young guns with a few older heads have most definitely allayed the manager’s and some of their own fears with seven straight wins.
“Being honest the target at the start of the year was to consolidate in the division and give the intermediate championship a right good rattle.
“We have been beaten in the last two intermediate semi-finals against Bundoran in 2015, and Milford last season.
“So we are very anxious to do well in intermediate championship and make up for the disappointment of the last two seasons.
“The intermediate championship is still the number one goal but given the start we’ve had to the league we have to start thinking about promotion too.
“After our recent win over Naomh Columba, one of the young lads said to me does that mean we are safe now.
“Realistically given the situation we are in, we have to aim to keep the run going and set our sights on promotion too.
“We have Ardara at home on Friday evening and then we have three away games in-a-row against Malin, Buncrana and Glenfin and they won’t be easy games.
“We played Buncrana last weekend and they gave us a tough game. We may have won by six points but it was far from easy.
“They were very physical and they have a good game plan and they certainly won’t be easy at home.
“We are also going to be without Colm Kelly for a couple of months. Colm is away to Philadelphia on Thursday for a couple of months to play football and he will be a big loss.”
Kelly, who has played in a number of positions, will unquestionably leave a void. But he goes with the manager’s blessing.
“I was not going to stand in his way. Colm is a student in Galway and he has got the opportunity to go to America for the summer and is fixed up with a job so I fully understand his situation and I wish him well.”
The manager is one of four survivors from the last Aodh Ruadh team to play up in Division One still involved with the current squad.
The others are Johnny Gallagher, back with the club after a season playing with Oliver Plunketts in Dublin, Seamus Kane and Mickey ‘Sticky’ Ward.
“It is great to have Johnny back and along with Seamus and Sticky, he has a wealth of experience which is very
important for a young team like we have.”
The most immediate challenge facing James O’Donnell and unbeaten Aodh Ruadh are Ardara in Fr Tierney Park tomorrow night (Friday)
This is an Ardara side that are still smarting from a first day defeat by Aodh Ruadh in Pearse Park. Aodh Ruadh won that game by a single point 0-11 to 0-10.
Ardara head to Ballyshannon on the back of an impressive six point win over Termon at home last weekend.
Lorcan O’Donnell, CJ Molloy (who hit 1-4) and Paul Watters scored the goals for Ardara in their 3-10 to 0-13 win over Termon.
“They will be smarting from the first game alright. But there is a good vibe about Ballyshannon and the way we are playing if we can maintain form we will be hard to beat.”
Verdict: Aodh Ruadh.
In the other games in Division Two, Termon, Killybegs and Buncrana are expected to take the points against MacCumhaills, Naomh Columba and Malin respectively.
In Division One, Gaoth Dobhair, Dungloe, Kilcar, Milford and St Michael’s are expected to claim the points against Naomh Conaill, St Eunan’s, Glenswilly, Bundoran and Four Masters.
In Division Three home win are predicted for Burt, Gaeil Fhanada, Red Hugh’s against Moville, Naomh Brid and Naomh Ultan while the in form Naomh Muire should have a little too much for Letterkenny Gaels at the Glebe.
In Division Four home wins are predicted for Convoy, Naomh Padraig, Muff and Naomh Colmcille while Carndonagh are predicted to take full points from their clash with Robert Emmetts.