ALL roads lead to MacCumhaill Park this Sunday for the Donegal SFC Final and I think it’s fair to say, that the two best teams have reached the decider.
St Eunan’s are the defending champions and they go into the final high on confidence. It’s not even two months since Naomh Conaill hammered them in the group stages on home turf, but they have managed to turn things around.
They were as far out as 8/1 with the bookies to win the Dr Maguire after that defeat, and I’m sure there are a couple of punters out there who backed that. You’ll spot them on Sunday, because they will be the people sweating in the stands!
‘Eunan’s have dominated the club scene over the last decade and a half and they will be keen to win this week to become the most successful club in the competition’s history.
However, standing in their way is the team that is best equipped to beat them in Naomh Conaill.
The Glenties men have underachieved since the made their breakthrough in 2005, and just one more title since then is a disappointing return.
They have a lot of talent in their team, and most of their side have represented Donegal at some age group, whether it be senior, under 21, or minor.
They have been going well this year under the guidance of Martin Regan and Cathal Corey, and they have had their eyes on the championship from early in the season.
I believe the midfield battle will have a huge bearing on the outcome of this week’s game. St Eunan’s are very strong in that sector with Kevin Rafferty, John Haran and Rory Kavanagh all in the mix, while Rory Carr will drift in and out as well.
Naomh Conaill are not blessed with big imposing players, although Ciaran Thompson has done well at midfield for them this year. Marty Boyle has been partnering him, but he is not a recognised midfielder and would have played most of his football in the half-back line.
I’m sure Martin Regan would like to line Leo McLoone out at the edge of the square, but he may need his captain further out the field.
It is like the Michael Murphy scenario. They could leave him inside, but if they can’t win enough ball, he is not going to do much damage.
Dermot ‘Brick’ Molloy had a great game in the semi-final against Kilcar, and after taking a break from the Donegal panel, he looks refreshed and back in form.
One interesting aspect of the final and something that I doubt has ever happened before in Donegal, is that four brothers will start the final for Naomh Conaill.
The Thompson brothers are all fine footballers and it will be a very proud day for their parents Mary and Tony when they take to the field together on Sunday.
Aaron has been converted into a corner-back in recent times, and he will be given a man-marking role, while Anthony will look to shore up the defence from centre half-back.
Ciaran will be playing in midfield, while Leon will look to cause problems in the full-forward line. If they all play to their potential, Naomh Conaill won’t be far away.
St Eunan’s do have a lot of experience with Haran, Rafferty, Kavanagh, and a man that always seems to play well in big games, Conall Dunne.
However, they also have a lot of good young players like Carr, Conor Parke, and Caolan Ward. Conor Gibbons has not been at his best year, and he will need to raise his game in the decider.
One man who I am looking forward to watching is their corner-forward Lee McMonagle, who is a match-winner and has a real eye for goal.
It’s probably safe to say that there is not a lot of love lost between the clubs and their games often have an edge to them.
Naomh Conaill will feel the owe St Eunan’s one now after losing the 2009 and 2012 finals to them.
Glenties will have no fear of St Eunan’s, and while I wouldn’t read too much into their group stages victory, they will take heart from already getting the better of Maxi Curran’s team this year.
It is a big day for the two clubs and I wish them both the best of good luck.
It would be a great achievement for Martin Regan to lead Naomh Conaill to the Dr Maguire in his first season in charge, but likewise, Curran will receive plenty of plaudits if he leads St Eunan’s to back-to-back titles.
I feel it will be a very close match, but I think St Eunan’s will prevail by the narrowest of margins.
It will be somewhere at the back of the players’ minds this week, but both teams will fancy their chances of going on a good run in Ulster this year if they get through this Sunday.
St Eunan’s did well last season before going out to Omagh, and they will be stronger for that experience.
The last time, Naomh Conaill won the Donegal SFC final, they went on to reach the Ulster Club Final, and I’m sure they would love to get another run in the provincial championship.
I think whichever side comes through will give it a good rattle this year and it would be great if one of them could go on to become the first ever Donegal side to win the Ulster Club Championship title. It’s about time we had a winner.
The Donegal champions have been drawn at home to the Tyrone representatives this year, and we now know that will be Trillick after they defeated Killyclogher last Sunday in Healy Park.
That was an amazing triumph, as last year they were beaten in the Intermediate final, and yet 12 months later, they have the O’Neill Cup in their grasp. It shows clubs that anything can be achieved with hard work.
Trillick do boast some fantastic young players in the Donnelly brothers, Mattie and Richie, and the Brennan brothers, Rory and Lee.
However, it would be a great opportunity for either Naomh Conaill or St Eunan’s to make it through to the last four of Ulster.
The phenomenal machine that is Crossmaglen Rangers won the Armagh title again last week, and they will be hard to stop, while Scotstown and Slaughtneil are two other clubs that I fancy to do well. But I don’t think anyone will want to come up against the Donegal champions either.
It’s about time we made the breakthrough and maybe this is the year.