Getting preparations right was difficult but Gaoth Dobhair ready - Mervyn O'Donnell

Tom Comack


Tom Comack

Getting preparations right was difficult but Gaoth Dobhair ready - Mervyn O'Donnell

One of the biggest difficulties Gaoth Dobhair manager Mervyn O'Donnell encountered once Gaoth Dobhair won the Ulster final was the long wait to the All-Ireland semi-final meeting with Corofin.

It will be 11 weeks, minus one day, from the Donegal champions’ Ulster final victory over Scotstown, Monaghan to this Saturday’s last four meeting with the Galway champions in Pairc Sean MacDiarmada, Carrick-on-Shannon.

And with Saturday’s showdown with the reigning All-Ireland champions looming ever closer, the Gaoth Dobhair boss is happy he and his backroom team have got it right.

“It did pose a problem and to be honest 11 weeks is far too long a gap and we would have much preferred to have the championship done and dusted in the one year,” said the Gaoth Dobhair boss, who is in his second year guiding the club's fortunes.

“We had a chat about it after the Ulster final and we decided to take a two week break from the gym and from all forms of training.

“Keeping the body right and keeping the mindset right over the period was difficult. But we left a lot of it to our trainer Michael Boyle, that is his speciality, sports science.”

The management also gave the lads a number of nights off at Christmas before getting down to business in the early days of the new year.

“We got back on the 5th of January with a challenge game against Naomh Eanna from Belfast. That was a decent challenge and it got us up and running.”

They then played the Donegal U-20s in Ardara and London, who were preparing for the start of the new season, in London

“We were poor in the first half of the London game but it was like someone flicked a switch and we played much better in the second half and we came away very happy from London.”

The rest of their preparations have been confined to inhouse games among themselves and the management are happy with that for preparation and especially after the London game, they are ready for the challenge that Corofin pose.

And then there was the tragic death of Gaoth Dobhair player Michaél Roarty in the road accident that also claimed the lives of Cloughaneely players John Harley, Daniel Scott and Shaun Harkin.

While Micheál Roarty was not a member of the championship squad he had played a number of league games with the team at the start of the season. He also trained regularly with the club and had trained with the team the day before his tragic death.

“Micheál’s death .was a major blow to the lads and you could see the effect it was having on them. We weren't sure how to handle it and I called a meeting with a number of the older lads and we sat down with Neil McGee, Kevin Cassidy and few of the other lads .

“We decided to go back training on the Thursday night, the night of the day of the funeral and that is what we did.

“The whole squad turned out for the session with the exception of Odhrán MacNiallais, who was a friend of Micheál, and Eamonn Collum who was a neighbour and who were excused on the night.

“The mood was pretty sombre as you would expect but we put his death to bed that night and we decided we were not going to keep bringing it up.

“Micheál will be always with us and he will be with us hopefully in the dressing room on the day when we go to play Corofin. But we drew a line under it as a group that night.”

Corofin are the reigning All-Ireland champions and the Gaoth Dobhair boss acknowledges they will present his charges with a massive challenge.

“I just looked at their stats there during the week and they are a quality side and have the advantage of being there before.

“We accept they are a massive mountain for us to climb. But it is a challenge; we are looking forward to taking on the best club team in the country.”

Read also: Eamonn Collum making the most of his chance

Read also: Christopher Sweeney - Gaoth Dobhair in bonus territory

See also: Dáire Ó Baoill and the need for goals