Glenswilly and Naomh Conaill meet in game of the weekend

Sylvester Maguire gives his thoughts on the semi-final

Gerry McLaughlin


Gerry McLaughlin


Glenswilly v Naomh Conaill preview

Ciaran Thompson (left) and Naomh Conaill face Glenswilly on Saturday night. Picture: Brian McDaid

It's the clash of the Glens as Naomh Conaill and Glenswilly lock horns for a place in this year's county final on Saturday evening at 7pm under the lights in Ballybofey.
And it is an intriguing clash between two clubs with a strong cohort of players who have three county titles apiece.
Naomh Conaill prevailed in 2005, 2010 and 2015 while Glenswilly were victorious in 2011, 2013 and 2016, so there is no shortage of experience in either camp.
But while quite a few pundits have fancied Glenties to go all the way, Glenswilly have advanced quietly without fuss and without showing any real menace.
In a way, this match is ideally set up for them, as much of the county is favouring Naomh Conaill, not only to win on Saturday night, but to also take the Dr Maguire Cup.
Ex-Aodh Ruadh and Donegal star Sylvester Maguire is siding slightly with Glenties but agrees that this match is ideally set up for Glenswilly to yet again confound the odds.
“Glenties will be favourites after beating Kilcar to come clear, but Kilcar were very depleted missing Paddy McBrearty and Ryan McHugh and then losing Mark McHugh as well.
“They are a huge loss, but I just think that Naomh Conaill are a very well balanced side, vastly experienced and they have a lot of people in that squad that know how to win a championship as they have already taken three since 2005.

SEE ALSO: Intermediate semi-finals preview 

“That is a very important factor going into a semi-final which is all about getting through. Semi-finals can also take on a life of their own”, said the man who won the last of his four county championships with Aodh Ruadh 20 years ago in 1998”.
And even though Dermot Molloy, who has been struggling with injury, was withdrawn last week, Maguire believes that a fully functioning Molloy is still vital to Naomh Conaill's chances of success.
“If the 'Brick' is in form I think Glenties have a great chance. He got the vital goal against St Eunan's and they also have fine players like Ciaran Thompson, Leo McLoone, Ciaran Thompson, Anthony Thompson, Eoin Waide and Marty Boyle.
“So overall, I think Glenties have a better balance to their team, but you can never underestimate any team that has Michael Murphy and big Neil Gallagher on board.
“And apart from Gary McFadden, they don't have too many other scoring forwards.
“Now Murphy has been playing well within himself so far in this championship and it is not that he is holding back. But he is doing enough in games to get Gleswilly through, but there is always going to be one big massive performance in both him and Big Neil.

Glenswilly's Neil Gallagher in a tussle for the ball during his team's quarter-final win over Four Masters in Ballybofey on Saturday night

“Glenswilly have a fighting chance, but Glenties have a better balanced team”.
But Glenswilly have a fair bit of powerful balance too with several players who also have three county titles in their lockers.
“They know how to win and are physically powerful and there will not be too much in it,” Maguire added
And when it is suggested that Glenswilly possibly depend a bit too much on Murphy, he replied: “Yes but I suppose you could say the same about Donegal, Ulster and Ireland.
“Everyone depends too much on Murphy, the problem is there is only one of him.
“He is an unbelievable talent and he rarely plays a bad game.
“I don't ever remember Murphy playing badly.
“Sometimes he does not reach the heights of before but you can't keep at the top level all the time.
“But even Murphy at half pace, is better than most other players in the country”.
As against that, apart from their obvious strong first 15, JNaomh Conaill also have quite a considerable bench and team captain Brendan McDyer came on to great effect against Kilcar last week.
“They do have great strength in depth but subs don't always have the desired effect,” Maguire said.
“You could have three very good ones and six that don't work out.”
So can Glenswilly confound the odds?
“Without a doubt they are very capable of winning and there won't be much in it.
“And if they get a goal or two at the start of the match, and that is always possible with Murphy, then they will park the bus, and it is a big one, across their own 45 and hold out for victory.
“They have done this before and you remember 2017 when Murphy got an early goal and the match was then played on their terms.
“And they have a massive physical presence and are very strong mentally. So it is set up for quite a good tussle.
“But I just think Naomh Conaill will shade it.”
Verdict: Naomh Conaill