DONEGAL GAA - SENIOR CHAMPIONSHIP

Experienced Gaoth Dobhair expected to have too much for MacCumhaill's

A look ahead to Sunday's semi-final in Letterkenny

Tom Comack

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Tom Comack

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Sport@donegaldemocrat.com

Championship preview

Aaron Kelly of MacCumhaill's in the thick of the action last weekend against St. Michael's. Picture: Brian McDaid

After shooting the lights out last weekend with their eight goals, and 16-point win over Bundoran, the odds-on championship favourites Gaoth Dobhair have been shortened.
The men from Magheragallon were awesome at times on Sunday evening on the wide open spaces of MacCumhaill Park as they carved open Bundoran at ease in their quarter-final. The sheer power and pace of the side managed by Mervyn O’Donnell was breathtaking.
However, Bundoran’s naivety in defence also played into the hands of the fleet-footed Gaoth Dobhair men.
Bundoran are a Division Two side, albeit they were promoted as champions at the end of the season.
Gaoth Dobhair face Sean MacCumhaills on Sunday at 4.30pm in O’Donnell Park for a place in the county final. Complacency in the Gaoth Dobhair camp is the first thought that springs to mind when looking ahead to this game.

Action from Ballybofey last Sunday where Gaoth Dobhair were convincing winners over Bundoran. Picture: Geraldine Diver 

But complacency is something the Gaoth Dobhair boss O’Donnell, in his second year managing the team, feels will not be a factor.
“There was a lot of similar chat last year ahead of our semi-final against Naomh Conaill and we know what happened in that game,” he said.
“Naomh Conaill came back from being five or six points down to pip us by a point.
“That defeat is still fresh in the memory and besides, the young lads are a year older and a year wiser and they all have also won an U-21 championship. They have gained a lot of experience in the last 12 months. So for those reasons I don’t think complacency will be a problem.
“We are also stronger this year. Odhran MacNiallais was in America and we didn’t have him, and Kieran Gillespie was injured. They are both back and fully fit and as a consequence we are a much better team.”
The Gaoth Dobhair boss also feels MacCumhaill’s are a good side.
“They beat a good St Michael’s team in the quarter final and they came out of their group behind Kilcar,” he noted.
“They have a number of very good young forwards and of course Marty O’Reilly is a big player for them.
“We won’t be taking them lightly. They are a good side and have had a good season so far. As well as their run in the championship they also won promotion in the league.”
MacCumhaills finished in second place in Division Two of the All-County- Football League equal on points with Bundoran, but pipped on score average for the number one spot and the title.

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They’ve had a very good run in the championship, winning two of their three games, starting with an opening day away win over Milford. They followed that win up with another top class performance and a home win over a resurgent Killybegs.
They lost to Kilcar in the last of the group games but with both sides having already qualified from the group this was more or less a dead-rubber game.
They then qualified for the last four with a first class performance and a 2-10 to 0-13 win over a fancied St Michael’s in O’Donnell Park last weekend.
A feature of what is a new look and young MacCumhaill’s team which has been put together this season by former player Bernard McGeehan - who is in his first year in managing the team - is the number of goals they have chalked up.
In four championship games they have raised ten green flags and they were also finding the net regularly during the league.
They scored four the first day out against Milford, they hit three against Killybegs in the second game and one against Kilcar before nailing another two against St Michael’s last weekend.
The have clocked up decent points tallies too. They hit ten points against Milford,12 against Killybegs, ten against Kilcar and ten again last Saturday against St Michaels.
“We feel we are strong up front,” McGeehan said.
“Oisin Gallen has come in this season and really has added to the attack.
“We have a very young team. Seven U21s started on Saturday against St Michael’s - Luke Gavigan, Ronan McMenamin, Oisin Gallen, Eoin Gallen, Pauric Patton, Chris Gallagher, and Conor Griffin. All have stepped up this season and have really made a big difference.
“Look, we know were are up against it on Sunday. Gaoth Dobhair were the best team in the county all year in the league and they have carried that form through to the championship.
“We saw what they did against Bundoran last weekend. We’ve played Bundoran twice this year. They beat us by seven points in Bundoran and we beat them.
“That gives you an idea of the challenge facing us but we are looking forward to it.
“It has been a good year so far and our targets for the year have been achieved. We are realistic to realise it would be a massive shock if we were to win. Football can be a strange game and our younger players are used to winning and we will be going all out to give it our best shot. We are confident that if we do, we won’t be far away.”
Gaoth Dobhair have no injury worries this week while MacCumhaills have doubts over full-back Martin Gallagher who picked up an ankle injury in the first half against St Michael’s. However, Nathan Gavigan is available again having missed last weekend’s quarter-final due to other commitments.
Verdict: Gaoth Dobhair.