BY CHRIS MCNULTY
DONAL O’Brien has hailed his Cockhill Celtic side, who are on the cusp of crowning a special season.
Fresh from winning the Ulster Senior League title on Sunday, the Inishowen high-flyers face Swilly Rovers in the Donegal News Ulster League Cup final on Saturday (Leckview Park, 4pm). Having retained the League title, Cockhill are now in search of a second Donegal News Cup in as many seasons.
A ‘double double’ is on the cards. Ex-Finn Harps and Derry City midfielder O’Brien has seen his side go almost two full League seasons unbeaten (they have one game remaining in this campaign against second placed Derry City) and they’re back in the League Cup final having had little break last winter because of their involvement in the FAI Intermediate Cup.
“It was very hard for me as a manager, to keep everybody right and keep them out training all the time,” O’Brien said.
“We had no break and it was about trying to keep everyone motivated; not just the eleven, but the sixteen or seventeen of the squad. It’s about bringing in one or two players and keeping it fresh. I had to leave a couple off the card for the Letterkenny game.
“It’s about trying to keep everybody happy, especially at a club where boys aren’t getting paid and there is no incentive for them to be here.
“It shows the attitude they have and those boys are obviously delighted that we’ve just won the league. They have all contributed something and have all played games. Some maybe haven’t played as many games as they’d have liked, but that’s football.
“It goes back to where you want to be. Do you want to be somewhere playing every game and not winning medals or do you want to be part of a club, take the opportunity and get a League title? That’s what these boys are willing to do.”
For the Cup final, O’Brien is without the cup-tied Conor Carlin and Oisin McColgan who is unavailable as he is attending a wedding.
Aiden O’Donnell, Benny McLaughlin and Peter Doherty will be the three front-runners for the two voids.
O’Brien’s side have met Swilly five times already this season, with Cockhill winning three and Swilly taking victory in the other two.
O’Brien said: “It’ll be a different game against Swilly. They’ll probably set up a high line and will be hard to break down. We just have to keep on going.”
The Dubliner was delighted with how his side turned the tables on Letterkenny Rovers on Sunday to win the League title.
David Shovlin and Darren McElwaine gave Rovers the lead on two occasions in the first half, but Garbhán Friel’s hat-trick won the day for Cockhill.
O’Brien said: “We came back from being behind twice to turn it around.
“We didn’t get it going in the first half against Letterkenny, but we kept pressing and pressing. It’s a credit to the boys.
“I always feel when we’re not too far away from teams – if we’re drawing or are a goal behind – and we know we need to pick it up that we are clever and keep doing the basics.
“Fitness, as well, is a big part of it. Our boys are very fit. At one stage of the season I was concerned because we came the whole way through from last season and boys looked a bit tired. We had a bit of a dip, but we rose to the challenge again.”