Gaoth Dobhair's Neil McGee looking forward to Ulster semi-final
Sixteen years on from when he first first wore the green and white of Gaoth Dobhair in championship football, Neil McGee is looking forward to his first Ulster Club semi-final.
The three time All-Star defender, even though he is a three time championship winner with Gaoth Dobhair, he is playing in his second Ulster campaign and first semi-final.
“I won my first championship in 2002, but the final wasn’t played until the Spring of 2003 because it had been held up because of the Eddie Brennan affair and an objections against Eddie playing for St Eunan’s,” said Neil.
“That meant we did not get to play in Ulster and the next time we won the championship in 2006 we played Crossmaglen in Ballybofey in the quarter-final.
“We didn’t do very well that that day and were well beaten. There were only five points in at the end, but Crossmaglen were much the better team and you could say it was a five point hammering.
“Crossmaglen were a serious team at that time and we weren’t ready for them. They were one of the top teams and they went on to win the All-Ireland Club final that year.”
Gaoth Dobhair face Crossmaglen again on Sunday and the vastly experienced All-Ireland winner from 2012 is looking forward to getting another crack at the men from the Orchard County.
“We’ve a better team and are better prepared this time and Crossmaglen are probably not as good or as strong as they were back in 2006.
“They are very like ourselves really. They are a new team with a lot of young players with a few older and more experienced players among them.
“They still have the likes of Aaron and Tony Kernan, Johnny Hanratty and James Morgan from the old guard but the rest of the lads
have come through in recent season from underage.
“I think they have won the last five minor championships in Armagh. Our young lads are something similar. They have enjoyed good success and they have won championships from U-16 up through minor and U-21 and they have also won an Ulster U-21. So it should be an interesting game.
“I see Crossmaglen are the favourites. That is because of their pedigree and experience in Ulster but that suits us fine. It is the first game since our first round game against St Eunan’s that we aren’t the favourites.”
Gaoth Dobhair have been dealt a body blow with the loss of promising young star Kieran Gillespie.
The centre-half has been ruled out for the rest of the season after suffering a cruciate injury in the opening seconds of Gaoth Dobhair’s first round clash with Antrim champions Cargin.
Gillespie went over on his ankle when coming down from competing for the ball in the throw-in.
“Kieran is a massive loss. He has been our best player right through the championship and it is desperately hard luck on him given all he went through to get back playing after been close on a year out.
“He is big and strong and very athletic and he has a great pass and is an all round quality good footballer.”
On the good news front Neil is confident that both Odhrán MacNiallais and Odhrán Ferry McFadden, who missed the first round, will be back for Sunday.
County man and man of the match in the county final, Odhrán MacNiallais, sat out last time out with a broken finger picked up in training the week before the game.
Ferry McFadden was sidelined with a dead led injury picked up in the county final.
“The lads are fine again. They were back training last week and were going well. Odhrán MacNiallais was togged the last day but didn’t play but I think that was more precautionary than anything else. I think if he was needed he would have been able to come on.”
Gaoth Dobhair defeated the Antrim champions by four points ,3-11 to 1-13, though they were hanging on at the finish having led by ten points at half-time, 2-10 to 0-6. The Donegal champions totally outplayed the Antrim men and looked in a different orbit in the opening half.
“I think we got a bit complacent at half-time and thought we had the game won. I suppose that is the one big lesson we learned from the game, you cannot afford to let up.
“We were lucky we got away with it the last day, but there is no way we will get away with doing the same against a team like Crossmaglen.
“We are going to have to play flat out for the full game on Sunday to have a chance.”
And the rock on which so many good forwards have floundered on over the last decade and a half feels if the Donegal champions bring their A game to Healy Park on Sunday, they are in with a right good chance of making it through to the club’s first provincial final.
“It is a very open championship and any of the four teams left in it will feel they are good enough to win. It is a matter of going on and put in the performance and leaving no regrets on the field.”