MacCumhaill’s victory over St. Michael’s was probably the only quarter final that caught anyone by surprise last weekend.
St Michaels have been trying to make the breakthrough in the Senior Championship over the last number of years but have failed to realise their potential, especially when you consider the quality of players they have in their squad.
MacCumhaill’s have had a great year, winning promotion from Division Two and adding a number of very good young players to their squad. After watching them against Killybegs in the group stages you would have to be impressed with the energy, intensity in the tackle and their support play when they’re in attack.
They have real pace in their attack and goals seem to be clearly on their radar, especially in the first ten to fifteen minutes of each game. Their prize for getting through to the last eight is a meeting with this year’s favourites Gaoth Dobhair.
Gaoth Dobhair had an emphatic victory over Bundoran, scoring eight goals on their way to victory.
Bundoran who have had an excellent year to date, winning Division Two of the league and coming through a tough group to reach the last eight.
They scored 3 12 last weekend which would have seen them through in most championship games. However, Gaoth Dobhair have been at a different level this year to everyone else. They have huge strength in depth with plenty of young players coming through successful minor and U-21 teams in the last few years.
MacCumhaills will offer Gaoth Dobhair a different challenge this weekend. The Twin Towns side have a hunger about them and considering their great run in the league where winning became the habit, they will certainly take some beating.
They will attack in numbers, they tackle in numbers and when they break from the back, they attack with real pace. They also have shown that they are competent in front of goals, putting up some great numbers both throughout the league but also in the championship so far.
Given that they will come off the win over St Michaels with their confidence flying, they will feel they have a great chance to get to a final for the first time since 2004. Bernard McGeehan will look to Martin Gallagher, Luke Gavigan and Gary Dunnion to keep things tight in defence and around the middle.
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Up front Marty O’ Reilly, Steven O’Reilly and Darren O Leary will have to ask plenty of questions of the Gaoth Dobhair defence and with the likes of Gavin Gallagher, Oisin Gallen and Brian Lafferty in support there is a real chance for McCumhaill’s.
Gaoth Dobhair are on a crest of a wave at the minute, winning the league, playing the majority of games without their county players which shows their strength in depth.
They have plenty of experience in their side with the two McGees, Kevin Cassidy who have won county championships in the past, and with the likes of Odhran McNiallais, Cian Mulligan, Kieran Gillespie, Michael Carroll and Daire O Baoill, they will be take a bit of stopping.
But that’s the funny thing about semi-finals. Form counts for nothing. How you played in the last game goes out the window. It’s a new challenge ahead and if as a player, your head is not in the right place, anything can happen.
MacCumhaill’s will go into the game with nothing to lose. They have gone well past the expectations of many but they will also realise that these chances do not come around too many times and will stop at nothing to get their hands on silverware.
Gaoth Dobhair’s strength in depth and their ability to score goals could be the difference in this one.
In the other semi-final last year’s beaten finalists Naomh Conaill take on the champions of 2016 Glenswilly who came through their quarter-final against Four Masters without much fuss.
Four Masters, who have struggled by their own standards this year, were no match for the Glen men.
Naomh Conaill had to get past last year’s champions Kilcar in what was a close encounter in Donegal Town. Glenties were slow to get into their stride against an understrength Kilcar. Their ability to grind out the win, even though they were not at their best, will focus them for this weekends encounter.
Glenswilly on the other hand are brilliant at getting the best out of everyone in their squad. They too are capable of grinding out a result against the odds. They have plenty of experience of winning championships in their side and with the likes of Michael Murphy and Neil Gallagher in their side they are never beaten.
With Gary McFadden, Caolan Kelly and Cathal Gallagher in their side they know how to play to their strengths and will not be overawed by the occasion or the opposition.
Spectators at last weekend's quarter-final meeting of Gaoth Dobhair and Bundoran
Naomh Conaill, by their own admissio,n will not be happy with last week’s performance. They offered very little in attack in the first 40 minutes and but for the experience of the likes of Leo McLoone, Anthony Thompson, Marty Boyle and Eoin Wade, it would have been a lot closer at the end.
Given the talents of Ciaran Thompson, Ethan O’Donnell and Dermot Molloy they have plenty in front of goal but it’s their over-emphasis on defence that takes away their ability to put up big scores.
If they allow themselves to get into a dog fight with Glenswilly they might struggle.
On the other hand if they can spread the game wide and play at pace they will have the opportunity to go one better than last year.