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Stage set for Donegal SFC final

Leon Kelly, Glenswilly and Benny Boyle, Killybegs captain with referee Ian Molloy.

Leon Kelly, Glenswilly and Benny Boyle, Killybegs captain with referee Ian Molloy.

BY CHRIS MCNULTY
UPWARDS on 6,000 people are expected to converge on Sean MacCumhaill Park on Sunday for the novel Donegal senior football championship final between Glenswilly and Killybegs.
You’d have got long odds for this to be the final pairing at the beginning of the year, but here stand the two teams looking to capture Dr Maguire.
Granted, Glenswilly might have been on the lips when the potential victors were being whispered about, but it would have been in cautionary terms given that they had been pitted in the ‘Group of Death’ alongside St Michael’s, Kilcar and Bundoran.
Killybegs, by their own admission, had modest ambitions but remarkably Martin ‘Slua’ Boyle’s side is the only unbeaten side remaining, with only an hour of rough and tumble remaining.
There has been a real sense of anticipation since both emerged from tight semi-finals.
A lot of talk last week centred on Michael Murphy’s predicament. The Glenswilly full-forward has been named as the Irish International Rules captain and as fate would have it the first test happens to be on Saturday night in Cavan.
Last Tuesday night, the Donegal CCC decreed that the final would go ahead as originally planned on Sunday.
“The Glenswilly club has been very magnanimous in accepting the decision of the CCC,” the Donegal County Board Chairman, Sean Dunnion, said at Thursday night’s final launch and press evening in the Abbey Hotel.
This is only Glenswilly’s eighth season as a senior club, but Sunday’s will be their third final, following a defeat to St Eunan’s in 2007 and that memorable win over St Michael’s in 2011.
Their dreams of returning the good Doctor to Foxhall are within touching distance again and it is in fine fettle they go to Ballybofey, a ground on which they’ve had some of the club’s most memorable outings, having captured the Division 2 League title at the weekend.
Little did Killybegs think when they submitted a proposal for a format change last year that it would be they who would benefit most.
Their wretched League campaign, played fourteen and lost fourteen, has been well documented, but the Championship has ignited those famous fires in the Fishermen.
They came through a group that included Gaoth Dobhair, Dungloe and Termon, before Hugh McFadden kicked a majestic 2-4 against MacCumhaills in a quarter-final and then eking out a Malin side that hd been the competition’s surprise package.
They hear a lot about history in Fintra – but it is with good reason.
Since 1988, thirteen clubs have contested the Donegal SFC final. This will be Killybegs’ ninth time to line up on county final day since their golden era began in ’88.
St Eunan’s, to put that into some context, have been in eleven.
2013 has been the eleventh year of the sponsorship of the SFC by RTE Raidio na Gaeltachta.
At the launch on Thursday, Seamus Mac Geidigh said he was looking forward to ‘the biggest day, football-wise, in the county’.
“The new system has worked well, I think, and it’s fair to say that we have had a good championship,” he said.
“There were some big casualties early on, but that is what Championship is all about – and we have the two most consistent teams left for the final.
“Killybegs will still be hurting from their defeat in the 2010 final and it was evident after their semi-final how much it meant to them.
“They have a new star in Hugh McFadden and they’re very lucky in Killybegs to have him.
“Glenswilly: Well, it really is phenomenal what has been achieved by the Glenswilly club.
“They became a senior club in 2006 and, already, they are appearing in their third senior final.
“It is remarkable for a club so young.
“They have managed to scrape through against Kilcar and Ardara and sometimes you’ll learn more by winning by the slightest margins.
The Man of the Match in Sunday’s game will be presented with the Peadar McGeehan Memorial trophy. The McGeehan family have been donating the trophy, in memory of the late St Eunan’s and Donegal player, for the final since 2007.
The referee for the final will be Ian Molloy from Naomh Conaill in what will be his county senior championship final. Molloy refereed the semi-final between Killybegs and Malin and also took charge of this year’s county minor final between St Eunan’s and Buncrana.

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