THE SPORTING DIARY: Special weekend in Gaoth Dobhair and Pettigo

THE SPORTING DIARY: Special weekend in Gaoth Dobhair and Pettigo

The joy of winning was the experience in Gaoth Dobhair and Pettigo on Sunday evening. The successes may have come at the extreme ends of the Championship divide, but I’m quite sure they were celebrated with the same gusto in both club areas.

If you want to experience the raw passion of the Pettigo success (their first since 1953) then just listen to the audio reaction of captain, Paul Robinson, on our website. The language is colourful at times but he was just being himself and there was real passion and joy in his words. It was not something he had thought about and because of that it comes across as a powerful snapshot of the win and what it meant to them.

For Gaoth Dobhair, their victory was what most of the county expected. The abundance of talent that has come through the underage system, thanks to Tom Beag, almost made the breakthrough last year. There was unfinished business. The young brigade were a year wiser and they had tasted championship success at U-21 in Donegal and Ulster; the management were also a year older and wiser.

Once the gap opened to four points in the second half of Sunday’s final, the writing was on the wall for Naomh Conaill, who have been a consistent force for a long time. But one feels that they need to change their game plan. Trying to keep a game tight for 50 minutes and hope to break down the wall in the final 10 is a plan; but once the opposition pushes four or five clear, then sometimes the horse has bolted. Naomh Conaill are better than they showed on Sunday and, no doubt, they will be back.

As for Gaoth Dobhair, hopefully they can push on and give Ulster a rattle. This is a line we throw out every year and we are still waiting for a team to make the breakthrough. Kilcar gave it a real go last year and if they had met any team other than Slaughtneil, I’m convinced they would have prevailed.

Gaoth Dobhair may not have a Patrick McBrearty, but at the moment they have a real balance to their team. Get over the first round and you will be facing teams on neutral territory. With Slaughtneil and Kilcoo out of the running, the Ulster Club Championship is wide open.

The Donegal champions have a swagger about them at the moment. They also have a very good mix of youth and experience and they also possess that vital ingredient in the modern game, pace.

Could be something more to shout about yet.

Donegal Town melee

While Pettigo were victorious with a great comeback in Tirconaill Park, turning a six point deficit into a two point win, this game was marred by an ugly melee at the end of the game which surely will need to be investigated.

It was not the first such incident at this ground, but was slightly worse than the finish to the league game between Four Masters and Bundoran. As far as I’m aware there was no action taken after that league game.

I have said it before and it is worth repeating. Somebody is going to get badly hurt in these melees. There is a pattern and they seem to happen towards the end of games and there are no clubs exempt.

It is not just a Donegal problem. It is a malaise that has been there for some time. Just look at the video footage in Kerry at the weekend.

Fair play to the Down Co. Board for the action they have taken over a recent incident. All other counties should take note.

Down to the last two

You’ve got to hand it to Ollie Horgan and Finn Harps. They weren’t at their best in the first leg of their play-off in Drogheda, but managed to grind out a draw. Then last Friday night, in front of a big Finn Park crowd, they eased to a 2-0 win on a night when they were so much better than their opponents.

It sets up a two-legged promotion/relegation decider with Limerick - a repeat of the play-off from 2015. No disrespect to the players involved back then, but the feeling is that Harps have a better team now. You could even say the current squad is stronger than last year’s side which played in the Premier Division.

And that’s all down to Ollie’s canny knack of finding players who can fit the bill at Finn Park. As Paddy McCourt points out elsewhere in today’s paper, those players who came in during the July window have played a big part in helping Harps get to where they are.

Here’s hoping they keep their brilliant run going and do the business against Limerick next week.