OPPORTUNITY knocks big time for St Eunan’s on Sunday when they take on Roslea in the Ulster Club Championship at O’Donnell Park.
With the likes of Ballinderry, Crossmaglen and St Gall’s out of the reckoning, the provincial race looks wide open and there for the taking for the teams left – and, for St Eunan’s, the bigger picture must now come into focus.
Their 0-9 to 0-6 win over Glenswilly on Sunday secured their 14th Donegal SFC title, moving level with Gaoth Dobhair at the head of the honours list.
St Eunan’s, though, haven’t made the inroads they might have wanted to or expected to in previous years. Now, though, they must look at the weeks ahead with real hope.
There is no reason to fear the path down which they’ll go from this Sunday, but the thing now is that Ulster has become a real minefield with the remaining teams all looking at this as a real chance for provincial success.
St Eunan’s won’t fear anyone and, as we all know, there’s a big difference between fear and respect. St Eunan’s will respect Roslea, but they can’t fear them. To have the game in O’Donnell Park is a significant boost to St Eunan’s and it would be fantastic to see them advance into a semi-final.
Sean Quigley is a major doubt for Roslea and I feel that the pendulum has swung in favour of St Eunan’s. A win on Sunday would put Eunan’s into a semi-final against Omagh St Enda’s. They defeated Crossmaglen on Sunday, a game in which Crossmaglen showed a real lack of discipline. Omagh won their first county title in 26 years and they are another side to be watched – respected, but not feared.
None of the teams left standing in the Ulster club championship have ever won it before, so the next three weeks will be exciting to watch from that point of view alone as St Eunan’s, Roslea, Omagh, Cavan Gaels and Clontribret go looking for the Seamus McFerran Cup.
For St Eunan’s, this has to be seen as an opportunity. And this is a real opportunity. Donegal has been doing well at inter-county level in recent years, it would be great to see a club side from the county lifting a provincial title now too. St Eunan’s have been Donegal’s dominant team over the best part of the last two decades, but their lack of Ulster scalps is probably a sore point.
St Eunan’s came good at the right time and they were certainly the best team in the Donegal Championship. They were really consistent in the Championship, with the exception of a game against Naomh Conaill for which they rested some players as they’d already qualified for the quarter-finals. The quick run of fixtures helped St Eunan’s and they were definitely deserving winners of the Dr Maguire Cup.
Maxi Curran deserves a lot of credit for the job he has done at St Eunan’s. In last Sunday’s final, his homework was done spot on. St Eunan’s completely nuliffied the Glenswilly threats. Michael Murphy and Neil Gallagher are the obvious points of reference for Glenswilly. Even though they both had an influence, St Eunan’s ensured that they didn’t have their usual control on things.
Once the two boys were looked after, the game was always in favour of St Eunan’s.
It was strange the way St Eunan’s, almost Kerry-like, came under the radar to win Dr Maguire. Despite the dressing room coming down with county championship medals, St Eunan’s were said to be ‘in transition’ and the general belief was that it would be a year or two before St Eunan’s would be back at the top table again. They were big outsiders and even heading into last Sunday’s final they weren’t the favourites, an unusual experience for the Letterkenny club.
But they stormed the citadel in some fashion to take the crown from Glenswilly’s head.
St Eunan’s were very impressive, but they have been building up to this all summer. Maxi used a lot of young lads during the League and blooding them in at senior levale was crucial as the year went on. The likes of Sean Daffan, Conor Morrison and Rory Carr were playing in, and more significantly winning, their first Donegal SFC final. They are the future and the experience of this year will stand to these boys for the rest of their careers.
For me, Sean McVeigh was one of the players of the Championship – he was immense all year for St Eunan’s and don’t be surprised if Rory Gallagher goes calling to him in the coming weeks. Darragh Mulgrew is having the best period of his career, the same is true of Eamonn Doherty and Conor Gibbons has delivered some big scores – not least his couple in the first-half of the final.
St Eunan’s have got a lot out of their young players, but perhaps their single biggest reason for capturing Dr Maguire has been the performances of their experienced men.
Kevin Rafferty was forced off after just ten minutes on Sunday, but he’s been immense. Conall Dunne has been one of the most consistent club players in Donegal over the last few years and he again was superb in this Championship. He is vital to St Eunan’s.
Maxi wasn’t far wrong on Sunday when he said that this was Rory Kavanagh’s Championship. He was simply instrumental in the campaign for Eunan’s. It was his first time as captain and I’m sure that gave Rory an extra incentive. He really led by example all the way through. St Eunan’s means a lot to Rory Kavanagh – and last Sunday will have been one of his proudest days in the game.
And then we have John Haran! What can you say about the big man? He played such a role on Sunday. You talk about players rising to the big occasion and that was certainly the case with big Haran on Sunday. He played as if his very life depended on it. He is so important to St Eunan’s as his performance showed against Glenswilly. John mentioned it himself after the game, but at 37 years of age, he was up against Gallagher and Murphy and came away with the Man of the Match award.
John is a credit to himself – and I’m sure Sunday’s display will go down in the annals at O’Donnell Park.
THE Intermediate final is on Saturday and it’s something of a novel pairing between Cloughaneely and Buncrana. In the last year or two, Buncrana have been bringing a lot of young players through with the likes of Darach O’Connor, John Campbell and Caolan McGonigle key players. With Garbhan Friel, Peter McLaughlin and Kevin O’Loughlin all playing well, it surely augers well for the future.
They’re up against a seasoned Cloughaneely team who have the likes of Denis Boyle and Shaun Maguire, who have been around the block with their club. Shaun McGarvey will be a huge loss, but John Fitzgerald has been in super form and I think Cloughaneely’s experience will see them through.
CONGRATULATIONS to Francie Friel and the Termon ladies who last Sunday won their Ulster final against Donaghmoyne in Enniskillen. Geraldine McLaughlin scored 4-4 which is just a phenomenal contribution. She has been putting up big scores all the way and she’s a superb talent. To win an Ulster final and have that sort of a scoreline to your name is incredible. Termon should count themselves very privileged to have a player like Geraldine in their ranks. Well done to them on their big win – and good luck in the coming weeks.