Donegal U-16 manager Rory Kavanagh
Big day is here
While the GAA Championship got underway last weekend in London and New York, the real battles begin this weekend, not least in Ballybofey and in Castlebar.
Will we continue to see the new-look Donegal which we saw in the National League under Declan Bonner? . . . the free-running attacking football with the emphasis on getting the ball forward early.
The plans are in place; it’s all about executing those plans now. As always conditions can play a big part with the best laid plans needing to be adjusted. The weather forecast for the weekend is mixed; nothing like we had last weekend for the May Bank Holiday.
Donegal are odds on, around 4/11 with Cavan available from 11/4 to 3/1, which would suggest that Donegal will win. You know the saying, the bookies are always right!
Donegal will be confident enough, but there is bound to be some confidence in Cavan also, especially after their good showing in Division Two of the National League and gaining confidence.
It’s 26 years since a Cavan team played a championship game in MacCumhaill Park, and Declan Bonner will remember that game well. It was the replay of the quarter-final of 1992 when Cavan were fortunate enough to get out of Breffni with a draw. Bonner hit 0-6 in the replay in MacCumhaill Park and, as they say, the rest is history!
Donegal have a very good recent record against the Breffni Blues, but as Hugh McFadden said at the press day on Tuesday, Cavan have a great record at U-21 level in recent years and Donegal have been among their victims.
The betting odds, in my opinion, do not represent the difference between these sides. The one failing that the new-look Donegal showed in the league, was a killer instinct to close out games, which eventually cost them their place in the top flight. I’m sure that is one of the issues which they have been working on since the end of the League.
Getting their best team on the field will be of prime importance as well. Declan Bonner said the team has a ‘clean bill of health’. But we all know that there are always some issues, but hopefully, everyone will be available for selection, which makes picking the championship team the great poser for groups of supporters this week.
It was what made championship week so special. Everybody has a go at picking their team. But at the end of the day, it is down to Declan and his management team.
Memories of ‘The Follower’ picking his team in the Democrat the week before the big game come back to mind. Cormac could have 18 or 19 players on his team with a toss up for a few positions. But he always got people talking, and sometimes arguing, over who or who should not be selected.
It will be another special day for Paddy McGrath and Patrick McBrearty, who have yet to miss a championship match since making their debuts in 2010 and 2011 respectively, McGrath with 43 and McBrearty with 41 appearances so far.
So, time to put the neck on the line and follow in the footsteps of The Follower - team for Sunday: Shaun Patton; Paddy McGrath, Neil McGee, Eoghan Ban Gallagher; Frank McGlynn, Eamonn Doherty, Paul Brennan; Hugh McFadden, Odhran Mac Niallais; Ryan McHugh/Stephen McBrearty (if McHugh not recovered), Leo McLoone, Ciaran Thompson/Cian Mulligan; Patrick McBrearty, Michael Murphy, Jamie Brennan.
Great win in Buncrana Cup
Congratulations to Rory Kavanagh and all involved in the Buncrana Cup success on Sunday evening. Defeating Tyrone in the final is a bonus, but it goes some way to making up for the heavy defeat at U-17 level the previous week.
By all accounts this team were very well prepared and the one point margin flattered Tyrone at the finish.
It gives Donegal something to work on for minor level next year and hopefully the same management team will be in place.
Finn Harps owe Paddy McCourt a great debt for recent results which have catapulted them back into contention for promotion back to the Premier Division. A short number of weeks ago, they were tumbling towards the bottom of the table but four wins on the trot can really change a team’s fortunes.
McCourt was the star of the show against Drogheda United on Friday night but had to go off injured. He was called into action for the final 15 minutes on Monday night against Galway and produced a stunning pass in added time to set up Jesse Devers to volley home a spectacular winner.
Harps have had to dig deep into their reserves in recent weeks and young players are stepping up to the mark.
Winning can become a good habit.