Donegal champions Gaoth Dobhair back on track for tilt at Ulster senior club championship

Donegal champions Gaoth Dobhair back on track for tilt at Ulster senior club championship

Genial Gaoth Dobhair manager Mervyn O’Donnell and his men have been drinking deep from the wine red rose of victory

For, not only can they play, the could always party.

But five days on from that historic victory in Ballybofey, they were back training, as the more serious business of making a real impression in Ulster.

A very experienced Cargin side lie in wait with home advantage in Belfast on Sunday.

You would think there would be some nerves in this relatively young squad, but there is a remarkable calmness about this group of young men that are likened to the great Kerry team of the mid 1970s in terms of their youth.

“Yes we have been celebrating but it is important to enjoy the fruits of victory.

“Winning the county title means everything to Gaoth Dobhair and we have suitably remembered it and now we will be focusing on Cargin.”

And if you are waiting for a full dossier on the Antrim side, think again, for Mevyn and Gaoth Dobhair have the self-possession to work on their own game.

Of course, they have already sussed out some relevant challenges that might present themselves, but this Gaoth Dobhair team does not panic or speculate.

It also helps that Mervyn has been with them since U-10 and is also U-21 manager, so there is an impressive tight bond in the group.

Speaking to the Democrat ahead of last weekend’s scheduled U-21 match against Glenfin, Mervyn was not happy about having to play the fixture.

“Six of our senior starting team are still under 21, Gary McFadden, Odhran McFadden Ferry, Dáire Ó Baoill, Naoise Ó Baoill, Eamonn Collum and Michael Carroll are the players involved.

“That team is that good that they would win Ulster again.

“That is poor management that the two things are on at the same time and I just think it is crazy.”

But more pertinently, there has been a bit of speculation in Donegal that the Gaoth Dobhair senior team can also win Ulster.

However, they face a Cargin side laced with considerable experience with the like of Tomas and Michael McCann major players.

Add in quality county performers like Kevin O’Boyle, Justin Crozier, James Laverty and Tony Scullion and you see the very real challenge which the Antrim champions possess.

Both teams will fancy their chances which could lead to a good open game on the excellent surface at Corrigan Park on Sunday.

Cargin’s final against neighbours Creggan Kickhams was a snooze fest, just like last year’s Donegal county final.

“They seem to be pretty experienced and we know Ulster is going to be tough, so it is a question of getting the minds focused again after a big win in Donegal.

“Winning a county final takes a lot out of you but these lads are pretty young and they will recover pretty quickly.”

Despite their youth there is a calm sense of confidence in the Gaoth Dobhair squad.

“That has come from winning right the whole way up from U-10 and I have watched them develop into a really special group.

“It has been a great journey and they have already won two Ulster titles.”

So what is so special about this group.

“It is their mental attitude, they fear nobody and that has been the same the whole way up with them.

“There is no fear in their heads, they are very sensible, very proud of their parish and all they want to do is play football.”

Mervyn reports no injuries from the final apart from a swelling around the knee of Odhran McFadden Ferry.

“Apart from that we are grand.”

So how did Mervyn feel when the whistle went in Ballybofey?

“Just wonderful and we had been waiting so long.

“When I was coming to the end of my playing days Eamon McGee took over from me at wing-back but you would not mind making way for a man like that.

“But I have been around these lads for 10 years and that makes it extra special and there is a great buzz about the place and it will shorten the dreary winter.”

He added: “All of these lads including the McGees, Kevin Cassidy, Odhrán Mac Niallais and Christopher McFadden are very professional and are very driven and self-motivated which makes them easier to manage.

“They know when the party is over and that is a big difference between this team and others and they are remarkably mature.”

So can Gaoth Dobhair beat Cargin?

“You have to feel that you can beat any team.

“That is the proper attitude to have going into any game

“We would be confident enough after winning that county final, knowing that we beat a very good Glenties side, a side that had a number of key players who played Crossmaglen Rangers in an Ulster final in 2010.

“And only for the late goal we would have won by ten points.”