No Bones About It

Declan Bonner

Welcome news for Jim McGuinness and Donegal GAA

Donegal manager Jim McGuinness.  Photo: Donna McBride
THERE was welcome news coming from the corridors of power on Tuesday night with confirmation that Senior and Intermediate Clubs across Donegal had come out in favour of deferring the start of next year’s Championship.

Jim McGuinness and Rory Gallagher had initially wanted two rounds of the club championship played in April (at the end of the National League) with the balance of games played after Donegal had exited the All Ireland series.

That did not meet with approval from the clubs whereas proposals for a late start to the championship was voted through 20-6 on Tuesday night.

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If the past few years are anything to go by that would mean the club championship not starting until late August (or hopefully much later!) but that still leaves more than enough time to play the necessary games.

This all means that clubs managers will be able to gear themselves up for a clean run of league games before gearing themselves up for the championship later in the year.

Hopefully, given he’s received the necessary backing from the clubs, Jim will now commit to a fourth year in charge of the Donegal Senior squad and we can all look forward to a successful 2014 campaign.

I’ve spoke to quite a few of the current squad in recent times and each one of them is hurting. Their pride is hurt and they can’t wait to get back at it and show the public that they’re much better than this summer has shown.

They’re still the reigning All-Ireland champions, albeit for less than two weeks, and they want to come back and show the rest of the country how good they really are.

It’s been a very busy few days for Jim and his wife Yvonne and congratulations to them both on the birth of twin girls last weekend

Quarter finals

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The club championship quarter-finals take centre stage this weekend with four games down for decision on Saturday and Sunday.
The weekend gets underway with the meeting of St Eunan’s and Malin in Buncrana. Great credit is due to Malin for reaching the quarter finals, especially when their group included Naomh Conaill, but they’ll be up against it against St Eunan’s.
The fact that the game is in Inishowen will help but I would expect Eamon O’Boyle’s team to be too strong.

The other game on Saturday evening features Killybegs and MacCumhaills. This is a difficult one to call. Killybegs were relegated last weekend after a short stay in Division 1 while MacCumhaills have not been setting the world alight.

They did well to top a group which included Ardara, Four Masters and Glenfin and in Martin O’Reilly they possess a player of real quality. I don’t expect there to be more than a kick of a ball in it at the end but, if pressed, I’ll lean towards a Killybegs win.

Sunday opens with the match of the weekend – the meeting of Kilcar and Glenswilly in MacCumhaill Park. It’s a repeat of the group stages, a game Kilcar won, and with players the calibre of Patrick McBrearty, the McHugh’s, Michael Hegarty and Ashley Carr in their ranks they can’t be discounted.

That said, Glenswilly can boast All-Ireland winning captain Michael Murphy, Neil Gallagher, Gary McFadden, Ciaran Bonner and Colm Kelly in their squad. They’ve been training hard these past few weeks and again I think this one will be very close with Glenswilly’s greater physical strength to see them across the line.

The final game is Gaoth Dobhair and Ardara, two teams who have been struggling for consistent form this year. That said, both recorded welcome victories in the league last time out.

Gaoth Dobhair have lost Danny Curran and James Carroll to emigration but defensively they’re strong with the McGee’s and Kevin Cassidy. Much will depend on the ability of Odhran MacNiallais to convert chances into scores but the same applies to Ardara who will reply heavily on Gareth Concarr.

They’ve lost Paddy McGrath and Brendan Boyle to injury and for that reason alone I think that Gaoth Dobhair will come through this game.

The cub hurling final also take place this weekend and pairs Burt and Setanta, two of the sport’s strongholds. They’ve had some great battles down through the years and I don’t expect anything different this time around with Burt favourites to bring yet another title to Hibernian Park.

I watched Ireland’s last two games as well as the All-Ireland hurling final in between and there’s no way you could compare one with the other. The pride, passion, skill and commitment on display between Cork and Clare was just breathtaking.

What a spectacle and, although the referee had a bad day at the office, I think a draw was the right result. The replay is expected to bring another two and a half million into the GAA coffers. Not a bad day’s work.

That figure might just about pay the salary of one or two of the Irish soccer players. Enough said.

Finally, well done to the St Eunan’s U15 Og Sport team who won the Ulster title in Maghera last Saturday afternoon. A week earlier they defeated Ardara in the county final and great credit is due to managers Jim Clarke, Paddy McIntyre and the boys. Their stand out performer was Niall O’Donnell, a real talent and a name I expect you’ll hear a lot more of in the years ahead.