Donegal champions must use swagger to conquer Ulster

Donegal champions must use swagger to conquer Ulster

They had the number plates ready. 182 GD #15. The 15th Dr Maguire is safely back in Magheragallon after a convincing performance saw them defeat Naomh Conaill on Sunday last in MacCumhaill Park.

They have watched St. Eunan’s overtake them in the county championship stakes in recent times but they can thank Tom Beag for delivering a new bunch of players who are now ready for even bigger things.

Success at underage level does not always lead to success at senior level, but this fresh impetus of young talent has made a massive difference to Gaoth Dobhair. Tom Beag had most of them from U-12 and they won everything to U-21, including last year’s Ulster U-21 success.

Indeed, that success was achieved without the services of Kieran Gillespie, who missed out through injury. There was speculation that the talented centre half-back might not play again, but he has come back with a bang. Watching him on Sunday last was heartening for all Donegal supporters and hopefully his rehabilitation is complete and he can realise the huge potential he has at intercounty level.

There was much to admire about the way Gaoth Dobhair went about their business. They were cautious early on but were always willing to put their best foot forward. While they had a big number of players playing in a first senior county final, the experience among their ranks was very evident, especially with the McGees and Kevin Cassidy.

Eamon McGee had a free role and was able to dictate the pace, while Neil was there to police anything that needed policing. Kevin Cassidy is an immensely powerful footballer and when you have an outlet like that at full-forward, who can win his own ball, it left Naomh Conaill with many headaches.

To be honest, the Glenties based side were disappointing, and as Manus Boyle points out in his column, they will have to reassess their approach if they are to be successful, especially in finals. When it comes down to the deciding game, there are few games won nowadays unless you can produce on the scoreboard. They will just have to throw off the shackles and give it a go; after that they can have no regrets.

They were not helped by the red card picked up by Marty Boyle and it was also obvious that Dermot Molloy was not 100%. However, they do have some good young talent and Kieran Gallagher looked dangerous at full-forward, when he was in there. But most of the time when the young players broke the moves broke down due to a lack of players in a forward position.

But having said that, it would have been a much closer game had Odhrán Mac Niallais left his shooting boots at home. Gaoth Dobhair Golf Club in congratulating him said he would be dreaming of going around now in eight under, after putting eight over in MacCumhaill Park!

When he is on his game, he is a joy to watch. You could compare him with Maurice Fitzgerald, but with a left boot. Almost everything he touched turned to gold (or green) on Sunday.

There were others, too, that stood out, not least the Ó Baoill cousins. Naoise could join cousin Dáire in the county senior panel. Cian Mulligan sniped in for three points, a big contribution.

Beside Kieran Gillespie, Odhrán McFadden Ferry looks like a player who has that ‘cut’ about him to play county senior. He is strong defensively and also good going forward, and will have learned a lot in the club’s run so far.

What was really impressive about Gaoth Dobhair was the confident way they carried the favourites’ tag. There was a swagger about them, and it would be great to see them use that swagger now to make an assault on the Ulster Club Championship.

It is always tough having an away game, but they could have drawn tougher opponents than Antrim champions, Cargin, who were involved in a very low-scoring final against neighbours Creggan Kickhams (0-5 to 0-4). That’s even worse than the Donegal 2017 final, Kilcar 0-7, Naomh Conaill 0-4!

Most of the Gaoth Dobhair panel sampled Ulster U-21 success last year and they should have a hunger for more, while it could be a Last Chance Saloon for the older brigade.

I’m sure they have savoured the success this week, but hopefully they can go on and do Donegal proud on Sunday week.