Odhran Mac Niallais . . . will not be home from US for Gaoth Dobhair
Gaoth Dobhair will definitely be without Odhran MacNiallais for the second of Sunday’s quarter-final clashes with St. Eunan’s in the Donegal Senior Championship in Ballybofey. (4 pm)
So says Gaoth Dobhair manager Mervyn O’Donnell.
“We won’t have Odhran and we have known that for a few weeks. He is playing with Donegal in the New York Championship final on Sunday.”
The ex-county man opted out of the Donegal squad at the start of the season and has spent the last few months in New York.
He has played a central role in Donegal’s march to the New York final against Monaghan which is on in Gaelic Park.
“In fairness to Odhran he has been in New York and playing with Donegal and now that they are in the final he is committed to them for the final.
“It would be great to have him. But now that we are not going to we are just going to have to get on with it.
“If we were to win on Sunday, we will have him for the semi-final.
“We don’t hold it against him and we wish him well and good luck in the final.”
Mervyn O’Donnell is in his first season in the senior manager position in Magheragallon. He took over from Tyrone man Conal Sheridan, who stepped away after two seasons in the job.
“St Eunan’s are a good side and have a very clinical forward line and we know we are facing a big challenge.
“But we are up for that challenge. We are in a good place right now. With lads coming back from injury we’ve a more or less fully fit squad and being honest we are delighted to have come out of the group and now looking forward to playing in the quarter-final.”
Like Mervyn O’Donnell, Eddie Brennan and Barry Meehan are also in their rookie year in senior management.
And they have been delighted the way the season has gone, Eddie Brennan, a former championship winner with the Letterkenny club, has been telling the Democrat.
“We used the league to find out where we are at and to give a number of the young players that have come up through the ranks in recent years some game time,” said the former Sligo player.
“The league has gone well for us given we were trying out lads.We are in second place just a point behind Kilcar.
St Eunan’s won the three games in the group against Four Masters, Dungloe and Naomh Conaill to top Group D and qualify as group winners.
“We feel we have improved with every outing in the championship and we will be hoping to do that again on Sunday against Gaoth Dobhair.
“We’ve met Gaoth Dobhair at underage level in recent years and we always had great battles with them. They have a lot of serious young talent coming through from underage and are a serious team.”
The news that Odhran MacNiallais is not returning for Sunday’s showdown swings the pendulum in favour of St. Eunan’s.
But Gaoth Dobhair will still be formidable. Kieran Gillespie, Cian Mulligan, Michael Carroll, Dáire and Naoise Ó Baoill, Niall Friel, Odhran Ferry McFadden and Gary McFadden are the young guns in Gaoth Dobhair’s armoury.
And when you add in Eamonn and Neil McGee, Kevin Cassidy, Danny Curran and James Carroll you have a formidable outfit.
Of the two St Eunan’s have been the most consistent over the course of the season.
Eddie Brennan and Barry Meehan, joint managers of St Eunan’s, experimented extensively and exposed a number of young players to senior football in the league.
Barry McGeehin, Niall O’Donnell, Michael Miller, Darragh Toal have all come through with flying colours.
Conor O’Donnell has also returned as has the experienced Kevin Rafferty, after taking a year out.
St Eunan’s by a whisker, but if Gaoth Dobhair throw off the shackles and go for it they could cause the upset.
VERDICT: St Eunan’s