The race for the Intermediate Championship title forms a big part of a bumper weekend of GAA club games in Donegal with two quarter-finals on Saturday and two more on Sunday.
The action gets underway early with Buncrana and Aodh Ruadh meeting in Convoy at 12.30 on Saturday morning.
This is one of two big clashes in the quarter-finals, the other being the meeting of Milford and Cloughaneely in O’Donnell Park at 4.30 on Saturday.
The other two games are on Sunday which are repeats of earlier clashes with Naomh Columba against Fanad Gaels and St. Naul’s facing Glenfin.
One of the teams to lose out narrowly in their quest to make the quarter-finals was Naomh Ultan and their manager, Kevin Lyons, has had the chance to look at a good few of teams that remain in contention.
Aodh Ruadh v Buncrana
Saturday, 12.30 in Convoy
“This could be a sticky one for Ballyshannon,” says Kevin, who has first hand knowledge of Aodh Ruadh, losing out to a last minute free in Fr. Tierney Park in the second round of matches.
“They were going well but they have lost a small bit of form, but I think it might be only a blip.”
The sides have met twice in the league with both sides winning their home games, so it has all the ingredients of being close.
“One thing Ballyshannon have to work on is if they don’t get a good start, they have to find a way of working their way into the game. They are a young side and the first 15 minutes will be important. I’m sure Buncrana will be thinking along those lines too.
“When you have a young side and things are tough, then it can be hard to come up with the answers,” says Lyons.
“It could be touch and go but I would give the nod to Ballyshannon to get through.”
Milford v Cloughaneely
O’Donnell Park, Saturday, 4.30
“A lot of people are talking about Cloughaneely and they are a good side, but for me it’s Milford all day long.
“We played Milford in the final round of games and they hit us for a couple of goals in the first half. We did well enough against them in the second half, but they are playing at a higher level in Division One and there is bound to be hurt from losing the final last year after a replay.”
There are no guidelines as regards clashes this year, but last year on their way to promotion, Milford won by five points in Falcarragh but Cloughaneely won by two in Milford.
“But with Milford going so well in Division One and they seem to have found an extra bit of form recently, I feel they will have too much,” says Lyons.
St. Naul’s v Glenfin
Tirconaill Park, Sunday, 12.30
“There are funny rules in the GAA,” says Kevin Lyons, who wonders why St. Naul’s and Glenfin meet again after meeting in the group stages, and you have Fanad Gaels and Naomh Columba also meeting.
“Could these four clubs have not been put in a bowl and drawn so that there would be different results.”
Glenfin and St. Naul’s met in the very first round of the Intermediate Championship in Pairc Taobhoige back in May with Glenfin winning by 3-13 to 1-16. John McNulty’s St. Naul’s can count themselves lucky to be still in the hunt, having not won a game so far (they drew their other two games against Buncrana and Downings).
“John Mac will have to use his ingenuity if he is to get St. Naul’s over the line in this one,” quips his good friend, Kevin Lyons.
“St. Naul’s have been down numbers in recent games and when that happens fluency can disappear. Making so many changes doesn’t help at this time of the year.”
The loss of Stephen Griffin is a major blow to St. Naul’s and probably the biggest factor in their loss of form. Whether Griffin can play any part on Sunday remains to be seen; it might come a little too soon and Kevin Lyons has a warning in this regard.
“Look at what happened the Gaoth Dobhair lad (Kieran Gillespie) back early in the year when he was brought on while injured. He is a class footballer and he is experienced enough to know when he is ready or not.
“I have to give the nod to Glenfin to win by a few points,” says Lyons.
Gaeil Fhánada v Naomh Columba
O’Donnell Park, Sunday, 12.30
“Managing a team in Division Three gives you the chance to see some very good footballers and I have seen Seamus Nanny Friel twice this year. He is a great player, on the ball or from frees, and his injury must surely be a big blow to Fanad.
“I know they got over St. Naul’s last weekend in the league and are in contention for league honours, but Nanny will be a huge loss.
“We played Naomh Columba a few times in challenge matches this year and what I noticed about them is that they have physicality,” says Lyons.
Naomh Columba went to Fanad in the second round of matches and came away with a very big win, 1-10 to 0-10. They subsequently lost out heavily to Cloughaneely but by that stage they had already qualified for the quarter-final.
“Naomh Columba’s physicality will be a big factor when it comes to championship. I know the game is being played on O’Donnell Park, a big pitch, but I still give Naomh Columba the vote to get through to the semi-final.
Kevin’s semi-finalists: Milford, Aodh Ruadh, Glenfin and St. Naul’s
“Overall Milford are my bet to win the Intermediate outright with Glenfin my outside bet.”