THE SPORTING DIARY: Kieran Gillespie injury blow to Gaoth Dobhair and Donegal

THE SPORTING DIARY: Kieran Gillespie injury blow to Gaoth Dobhair and Donegal

News of the injury picked up by Kieran Gillespie (pictured) in the Ulster Club game against Cargin is a bitter blow, not just for Gaoth Dobhair and Donegal, but to the player himself.

After scaling the heights with Donegal as a 19-year-old, he has been out for over a year, but came back in great style.

He was central in Gaoth Dobhair’s run to the Dr. Maguire Cup success and his athleticism, football ability and physique were something that Declan Bonner would have been keen to use in 2019.

His loss to Gaoth Dobhair as they face Armagh kingpins, Crossmaglen Rangers, on Sunday week in Omagh, is immeasurable. Hopefully, he will be back in time for the Ulster Championship in 2019 and the trip to Brewster Park to meet Enniskillen in late May.

Gaoth Dobhair were given a fright on Sunday but they survived. They were caught last year in the Donegal semi-final after leading by six at half-time. On Sunday, their lead was 10, and they needed it all. It could be a blessing in disguise. Against better opposition, which they will meet from now on, you cannot drop your guard, just because you have a healthy lead.

There are enough experienced players there to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

Elsewhere, it was a mixed weekend for Donegal clubs. Red Hugh’s put up probably the display of the weekend to come from behind and win comfortably against Emyvale, but if they are going to win Ulster, they are going to have to do it the hard way, being drawn to play the final in Celtic Park against Limavady, after losing the toss for the venue.

It was a difficult weekend for Glenfin, losing the Ulster Ladies final to Donaghmoyne on Saturday and then the Intermediate to Banagher on Sunday. Sport can be like that. A few weeks ago, Glenfin were on a high after reaching the Ladies final and winning the Donegal Intermediate.

Thankfully, their U-13s saved the weekend, winning the Donegal Division Two title on Sunday morning.

Horgan’s heroes

And what a weekend it was for Finn Harps, putting in their best shift of the season when it mattered most in the Markets Field, Limerick, on Friday night to clinch promotion back to the Premier Division.

To win the play-off 3-0 on aggregate was a big statement by the club. While it was a magnificent achievement for Ollie Horgan as manager, the Galway native knows only too well that the real battle lies ahead.

Keeping Finn Harps in the top flight and being able to compete against the Dundalks, Cork Citys and Shamrock Rovers, with their big financial backing, is like climbing Everest. To do so, Harps need to secure a support base of at least 2,000 at home games to go anywhere near competing.

They were achieving those figures in their final games of the season, but that must be sustained.

In fairness, Ollie Horgan and the players have earned the right to compete at the top level. Now the supporters will have to step up to the mark as well.

All-Star rumbles

Ryan McHugh picked up his second All-Star at the weekend, but there was disappointment for Eoghan Bán Gallagher and Michael Murphy.

The selection means there are six All-Stars now in Kilcar, just one behind Four Masters, who have seven.

I suppose it would have been unrealistic to expect Donegal to get any more than one All-Star, but you always live in hope.

The selection this year has been controversial with Stephen Cluxton again missing out after captaining Dublin to the four in-a-row (and not getting the All-Star on any of those four years). The other controversy has been the positioning of players in places other than where they were nominated, with Colm Cavanagh nominated at midfield and then selected at full-back. If they continue this trend, then there will be a solution to the Cluxton problem next year - select him at corner-back!

Ref clarification

In this column last week, I highlighted a grievance from the Donegal GAA referees’ body, who felt their nominations for the Donegal Co. final were not taken into account when the appointment was made.

The Donegal Competitions Control Committee have contacted me disputing this, saying they did take the referees’ nominations for the final into consideration.

The norm was that the referees’ body put forward three names and the Donegal CCC make the final decision. However, on this occasion, the Donegal CCC point out that two other names were added and a vote was taken to decide.

The matter is one of a number of issues which has left a divide between the referees’ body and the Donegal CCC which is the subject of mediation at the moment.