Are Gaoth Dobhair the team to beat now in Donegal Championship?

THE SPORTING DIARY with Peter Campbell, Sports Ed

Are Gaoth Dobhair the team to beat now in Donegal Championship?

Gaoth Dobhair - are they the team to beat now?

What a difference 12 months can make. On September 3rd last year, Gaoth Dobhair bowed out of the Donegal Senior Championship in the final round of group games. They were hammered in Glenties by Naomh Conaill, 2-18 to 0-11, and after the game Kevin Cassidy announced his retirement from club football. It was also the end of their championship run, finishing third behind Naomh Conaill and Termon.

Fast forward 12 months to Sunday last in MacCumhaill Park and they came up with probably the best club championship performance this year in overcoming St. Eunan’s to reach the last four in the race for the Dr. Maguire Cup.

They will now meet Naomh Conaill this year once more in the semi-final and even though the bookies have the Glenties men ahead in the betting, Gaoth Dobhair seem to be a much different proposition this year.

Having seen them in the first round of games back in May run Kilcar close in Towney, I had a fancy for them. But then when things went awry for them in the league, losing five games in-a-row and conceding 10-72 in those five games, I had doubts.

But it seems they were lulling us into a false sense of security. It was akin to what Glenswilly have done in recent seasons, coming good at the right time of year.

And after Sunday evening, I’m beginning to think that around Magheragallon they have been studying Glenswilly’s success. They kept the press at arm’s length last week, and when it came to providing a team on Sunday, they were pretty evasive too. The team listed in the programme was never going to start and as it turned out only ‘keeper Christopher Sweeney had the only shirt number that matched his position. Indeed, veteran James Gallagher was listed to start at No. 8!

It made things very difficult for those in the press box in the early stages of the game as we tried to figure their line-out. Spare a thought for those trying to commentate live on the fixture without having one of the team lineouts.

As much as the performance by the Gaoth Dobhair side was top class, hopefully they will be more helpful on the PR side of things when we see them in the semi-final.

Gaoth Dobhair will have Odhrán Mac Niallais back from the US for that clash with Naomh Conaill and who would bet against them if they can reproduce Sunday’s performance? They have a balance to their team which is refreshing and Kevin Cassidy’s about-turn on retirement could also be a big factor.

On the evidence of the weekend Kilcar and Gaoth Dobhair are the form teams. Kilcar are on target to get back to a county final but they will have to work on their defence if they are to bridge that gap back to 1993. Glenswilly exposed them last year in the final and the way Christy Keaney (looking far from fully fit) caused them problems should set off warning lights in Towney. They have time to prepare and would need to use that time well.

Naomh Conaill and St. Michael’s didn’t have things their own way and they will need no reminding that improvement will be needed if they are to make it to the final on October 15th.

Poor turnout in MacCumhaill Park

One of the major talking points after Sunday’s double header in MacCumhaill Park was the very poor attendance. If you took the Kilcar support out, then it would have been disastrous. It didn’t look too good on TV when watching it afterwards. I was at a minor county semi-final in Fintra the previous Wednesday evening (Kilcar v Naomh Columba), and there was probably as many at that game as was in Ballybofey on Sunday.

There were a couple of mitigating factors (live TV on eirSport and weather) but where were the supporters of Bundoran, St. Eunan’s and Gaoth Dobhair? The attendances at league games for most clubs in the county is very poor, but you would expect that supporters would come out for club championship.

eirSport coverage

Having recorded both games on Sunday, Monday morning wasn’t much good for anything else but watching the replay. They certainly put plenty of time and effort into the programme with previews, etc. Mike Finnerty had a little trouble with the No. 15s, Conor Doherty scoring for Bundoran a few times!

Sean Perry had to a lot of ad libbing until he figured out the Gaoth Dobhair team but once he figured that Cian Mulligan, Dáire Ó Baoill, James Carroll and Kieran Gillespie were in the starting team he did really well.

There was an interesting conflict between the preview and the commentary. Big John Haran was the Letterkenny interest in the preview and he talked about his finals and laid out his eight championship medals. But then in the commentary, Sean Perry, referring to the legendary Haran, told us he had seven Donegal senior championship medals. Easy knowing where Sean is from!