BUNDORAN fly the flag for Donegal in Ulster this week when they take on St Joseph’s, Glenavy from Antrim in the Ulster Intermediate Championship semi-final.
Unfortunately, Naomh Conaill have not qualified for the last four of the Senior Championship, with Trillick taking their place instead.
The Tyrone champions face Scotstown who have been my tip from the start of the campaign to land the provincial crown.
Kieran and Darren Hughes are in super form, as is young Shane Carey, while they have a very good goalkeeper in Rory Beggan.
They also have an astute manager in Mattie McGleenan, and as a Tyrone man, he is sure to have a good insight into this week’s opponents.
Trillick hung on to beat Glenties, but they did play with an extra man for more than three-quarters of the match.
Mattie Donnelly is a super operator, while their inside forward line was very lively against Naomh Conaill.
However, there are doubts over their rearguard, and the Monaghan men should have too much firepower for them.
The other semi-final between Kilcoo and Crossmaglen is a really intriguing affair. Cross are the undisputed kings of this competition, but the Down champions won’t fear them.
Kilcoo came out on top after a replay when the sides last met, but the encounter drew a lot of controversy for racial abuse that was directed at Cross player Aaron Cunningham.
The Down-Armagh rivalry is a feisty one at the best of times and it is sure to be another lively encounter on Sunday.
Cross are under the guidance of 2002 All-Ireland winners John McEntee and Oisin McConville and they eased their way to the Armagh Championship without their star man Jamie Clarke, who was in the US.
Clarke is reportedly back in the country now and he is expected to be on the bench, which would be a huge lift for Crossmaglen.
However, Kilcoo are ferocious competitors, as St Eunan’s found out a couple of years ago when they were dumped out of the Ulster Club by the magpies.
Kilcoo are a young team and they have excellent forwards in Conor Laverty, Jerome Johnston, and Paul Devlin. They are underdogs for the game, but I fancy them to cause a surprise.
The curtain-raiser at Pairc Esler sees Bundoran come up against the Antrim champions St Joseph’s, Glenavy, who it must be said have done magnificently to reach the semi-final.
Their manager passed away before their quarter-final meeting with Irvinestown, but the Glenavy men showed incredible character and resolve to go out and beat the Fermanagh champions.
Bundoran were very impressive in winning the Donegal IFC and while Clann Eireann put it up to them in the Ulster quarter-final, the general consensus is that Brian Gavigan’s men were worthy winners that day.
Antrim football would be regarded as one of the weakest in the nine counties, and even though they are likely to be without Jamie Brennan, I fancy Bundoran to make it through to the decider.
Under 21 semi-finals
The under 21 semi-finals take place this weekend and hopefully we will get two good games.
Kilcar take on Ardara and the Towney men have had a couple of tough tests this year already, with Naomh Columba and Naomh Conaill giving them their fill of it.
Ardara are a strong big team, and Tomas Boyle, Brendan McNelis, and Kevin Herron would have played a lot of senior football over the last couple of years.
However, they are going to be up against it in Glencolmcille. Kilcar are likely to be without Eoin McHugh, but in Stephen McBrearty and Ryan McHugh, they have two players that Ardara are going to find it very hard to curtail.
I expect Kilcar to win and set up a repeat of last year’s final with St Eunan’s.
The Letterkenny men are big favourites against Aodh Ruadh and it would be a surprise if they were defeated.
The Ballyshannon side do have a good young side, and they won their quarter-final win Dungloe easily enough.
St Eunan’s were convincing winners against Termon in the last eight and they have a lot of class in their team with the likes of Darragh Mulgrew, Conor Parke and Connor O’Donnell all starring.
A lot of their team have experience of playing county minor and they should have too much strength-in-depth for Aodh Ruadh.
I would like to offer huge congratulations to my old club Finn Harps on securing promotion back to the League of Ireland Premier Division.
Ollie Horgan has done an outstanding job at Finn Park. He has been working off a shoe-string budget, and logistically, he must encounter problems everywhere he turns.
His squad have put in a huge effort, and it’s not easy when you’re asked to travel up and down to Cobh or Wexford on the one day.
It’s a local team as well, with only one or two players from outside the county. There have always been plenty of talented footballers in Donegal and it is good to see Horgan giving those lads an opportunity to showcase their talents.
I’m delighted for Kevin McHugh, who has been a super ambassador for soccer in the county. He has got involved with coaching schoolboy teams in recent years which is not easy, especially when you’re playing yourself and holding down a job and then he has his family life to care for as well. He deserves another crack at the top flight.
BJ Banda was the name on everyone’s lips last weekend and it was real ‘Roy of the Rovers’ stuff for him, and he will forever be remembered as the man that sent Harps back to the big time.
There was a big crowd in Finn Park for the game last Friday and hopefully those supporters continue to get behind them, because we are fortunate to have a senior soccer side in the county.
Harps’ success is great for sport in Donegal, and hopefully they can kick on again next year.