Kilcar manager, Barry Doherty
Barry Doherty stepped into the breach as manager of Kilcar when Martin McHugh stepped down at the start of the season.
They were big boots to fill but nine months on the genial Doherty has guided the blue and gold back to the edge of the Promised Land.
They lost last year’s decider to the Michael Murphy and Neil Gallagher powered Glenswilly (1-10 to 0-12).
Kilcar, as they were all of last season, once again the form team in the county. They currently sit on top of the Division One table and one win away from retaining the Division One league title with one game to play.
But in Kilcar it is all about the championship and the gap of 24 years since they last won the Dr Maguire Cup is a long time for a club with such a rich championship heritage.
After losing out last year to Glenswilly, the focus and the pressure to deliver is even greater.
“No matter who is managing Kilcar, whether it is Martin McHugh or Barry Doherty, there are big expectations in Kilcar,” said Barry Doherty
“We have a lot of county footballers and with that comes expectation and we have to live with that.”
With five straight wins in the championship and only two defeats in 17 outings in the league, the new manager is happy enough with how his first season has gone.
“We have done okay as a team. We’ve tried to develop other players and bring them on in the course of the season.”
Kilcar had five men - Ryan, Mark and Eoin McHugh and Patrick and Stephen McBrearty in Rory Gallagher’s Donegal senior squad.
This meant for a large chunk of the early part of the season, Kilcar were without their big guns.
“I’d say the most our county men would have played for us all year so far is five or six games. But that gave other lads a chance.
“And those lads are in good shape and they will get their chance in the final too.”
Kilcar have arrived in Sunday’s showdown on the back of three straight win in the group stages and two big wins over Bundoran (quarter final) and St Michael’s (semi-final). They had 11 points to spare over Bundoran and a whopping 15 point winning margin over St Michael’s.
“We had a big win over Bundoran. But we didn’t play particularly well against Bundoran.
“In fairness we done well for certain parts of the St Michael’s game.
“We started well and with the wind we set out our stall and built up a lead and we didn’t look back.”
And yes, the Kilcar boss admits the ease of the wins over Bundoran and St Michael’s does concern him ahead of Sunday’s showdown.
“Of course it is a concern. Glenties are battle hardened. They are far more experienced too. We have been only to the one final in the last 24 years and we lost it.
“We will be up against it. But we will put our best foot forward and we’ll see where it will gets us.”
Along with Ryan, Mark and Eoin McHugh and Stephen and Patrick McBrearty, the Kilcar squad also boast the evergreen Michael Hegarty and Ciaran McGinley - one of the best midfielders in the county.
And then there is a very talented group of former county minors and U-21s.
Conor Doherty, Brian O’Donnell, Daniel Lyons and Aodhán McGinley have played minor and U-21 for Donegal and are pushing the older brigade hard.
Kilcar are ready and waiting to end the 24 year long famine and standing between them and achieving that goal are a strong Naomh Conail side.
“They are a very good team with some very good players.
“I’m a great admirer of Leo McLoone. I’ve always admired him as a footballer and any team that has a player of the calibre of Leo McLoone in it are always going to be a hard team to beat.”
And there is, of course, the hurt from that defeat by Glenswilly in last year’s decider.
“You learn a lot from losing a final and anybody that has played in a final and lost will tell you that.
“We would like to think that we are in a better place. But at the same time Glenties are a battle hardened team and they will bring something different to Glenswilly.
“But we will be ready and hopefully we will have a enough men to lead us over the line,” says Doherty.