Michael Boyle, the Gaoth Dobhair coach and trainer, has received many plaudits in recent weeks on Gaoth Dobhair’s march to Donegal and Ulster Championship glory.
The former county goalkeeper’s stock as a coach has gone up another notch or two since last Sunday and Gaoth Dobhair’s historic first Ulster Senior Championship success.
A Sports Science graduate from DCU and the holder of a Masters degree in Sports Performance from the University of Limerick, Michael has worked wonders in his first major coaching role, albeit with a talented and quality Gaoth Dobhair side.
Michael’s day job is a strength and conditioning coach at the Magherabeg Leisure Centre in Downings.
He didn’t hesitate when Mervyn O’Donnell, the Gaoth Dobhair manager, and player Eamon McGee called to his home in Gartan one evening last November and told him they wanted him to coach Gaoth Dobhair.
“Myself and Eamon are good friends and we were both working with the Donegal U-20s at the time. Gary McDaid had us in his backroom team,” said Michael.
“Mervyn and Eamon called to the house and they asked me to coach the team and being honest I didn’t give it a second thought. I knew the quality of player in Gaoth Dobhair and I just couldn’t resist working with them.
“My job was as a strength and conditioning coach. That was my job and I wanted to further my career, something I could not do when I was still playing. I knew it was going to affect my playing with my own club Termon, but I was 30 and I wanted to move on to the next stage in my career.”
Michael met up with Mervyn O’Donnell and the rest of the backroom team after Christmas and they hatched their plan for the year before meeting the players.
“The championship and winning the Donegal championship was the main aim at the start of the year. Mervyn knew that he was going to be without the county men for a lot of the league season and he wasn’t too worried about that.
“He wanted to use the league to build a squad and that is how it worked out. The new system where the league is played before the championship starts worked a treat for us.
“We concentrated on building a squad of 30 players in the league as we headed for the championship and that is the way it worked out.
“We found three or four players during the league that would not have been considered as first choice at the start of the year. Eamonn Collum came through from the U-21s, James O'Baoill and Dan McBride were another two and Seaghan Ferry, who scored on Sunday against Scotstown, were others that came through and put their hands up in a big way.”
Gaoth Dobhair began to put a string of results together in the league and going into the last few games they found themselves in a position to claim the Democrat Cup.
“The league wasn’t in our in our thoughts at all. They only target we set for the league was to have the county men back for the Milford game in the league so as we could start to build for the championship.
“Thankfully that worked out for us and we were playing well and won the league and then it was onto the championship. We were very anxious about the championship because we were in the so-called group of death with St Eunan’s, Naomh Conaill and Dungloe.
“We faced St Eunan’s in the first game in O’Donnell Park and it was a big game for us. We were playing well but we still didn’t know what to expect but we felt if we won that game and with the Naomh Conaill game in Magheragallon we had a great chance of qualifying from the group.
“We had Dungloe in the last game away and no disrespect to Dungloe but they were a bit off the pace and we felt would have nothing to play for by the time we met them.
“We won the game against St Eunan’s and that was the game that kickstarted the championship for us; it gave the lads great confidence from the fact they could go to O’Donnell Park and come out on top in a hard game.”
Donegal was plain sailing for Gaoth Dobhair after that with big wins over Bundoran - they scored eight goals against Bundoran in the quarter-final in Ballybofey. They followed that win up with another big win over Sean MacCumhaill’s in the semi-final in O’Donnell Park before seeing off the challenge of Naomh Conaill in the county final in Ballybofey.
“After the St Eunan’s game we took it one game at a time as we have done all year. We looked at the opposition’s strengths and weaknesses and prepared accordingly and it has been a similar story in Ulster.”
Gaoth Dobhair defeated Cargin in the first round in Ulster and then faced the mighty Crossmaglen Rangers in the Ulster semi-final.
“The boys really looked forward to the Crossmaglen game. I think it was Kevin Cassidy said they saw it as a great opportunity for Gaoth Dobhair to test themselves against a club of the class and standing of Crossmaglen.
“The win over Crossmaglen was a huge boost and really set us up nicely for last Sunday against Scotstown in the final.”
After Sunday’s historic win Gaoth Dobhair, the Donegal and Ulster champions, face an All-Ireland semi-final against another giant of the club game Corofin, from Galway, the reigning All-Ireland champions.
“That game isn’t until the middle of February. We have given the boys a couple of weeks off to recharge the batteries.We will regroup again around Christmas and get up and running again in January.
“Corofin are a huge club, a great team with a great pedigree. We will prepare for them just like we have done all year for every game and take it from there.”
No doubt the name of Michael Boyle will be heard of again. After his success with Gaoth Dobhair there will be others who will be knocking on his door.
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