UNFORTUNATELY, our minor team’s journey came to an end last week when they were beaten by Galway in the All-Ireland Minor semi-final.
Semi-finals are never easy to lose, especially when you’re so close to reaching the big final on the third Sunday in September.
Our young players were all devastated on the pitch after the match, and they really wanted to win the game.
However, they just came out second best against Galway. When you go to Croke Park, you have to perform, or you don’t win the game.
I thought the fact that we had played our quarter-final at Headquarters might have been an advantage, but Galway looked very comfortable there.
A lot of the talk in the lead-up to the match centred on Galway’s attacking trio of Dessie Conneely, Evan Murphy, and Robert Finnerty and they all had big games, as did their full-back.
Galway played like a traditional team from the county, as they kicked the ball in long and early to their dangerous forwards.
To Donegal’s credit, they kept battling and Enda McCormick scored one of the best goals you’ll see this year.
However, the team could have little complaints about the final outcome. Galway were good but they will have to lift it considerably if they are going to beat Kerry or Kildare in the All-Ireland Final.
Overall it was a disappointing way to exit the championship, but SP Barrett and his management team and the players can be proud of their endeavours this season.
They won the Ulster Minor League and Ulster Minor Championship titles, and they got two games at Croke Park, which will stand to them.
There are a lot of talented players in that group and hopefully they will push on at under 20 grade and in senior football, and maintain their progress over the next few years.
Mayo have plenty to do
Mayo did just about enough to win the second game at Croker last week, but they will need to improve if they are going to land that elusive All-Ireland title.
Stephen Rochford’s team have really come in under the radar last year. It’s been well documented that they have struggled through the qualifiers after losing to Galway, but if you go back even further than that, they had a really poor league campaign as well.
They have been written off, but maybe that will suit them this year. There won’t be any pressure on them in the final, and their big players are stepping up.
It looks like Lee Keegan will be tasked with marking the opposition’s star forward, but he’s still capable of pushing on kicking points.
Aidan O’Shea, Cillian O’Connor and Andy Moran all seem to have their swagger back as well.
Rochford isn’t afraid of making big calls, and after playing Kevin McLoughlin as his sweeper all year, he decided to line him out in the forwards last week.
Barry Moran was the sweeper, and he is a big man, but he won’t have the pace to play that position if they meet the Dubs in the final.
Mayo have plenty to work on, but I just have a sneaky feeling that this could be their year.
Dublin v Kerry
The second All-Ireland semi-final takes place on Sunday between Dublin and Kerry and it’s a mouth-watering contest.
Dublin are hot favourites, but you can never rule out Kerry, and it will be interesting to see how they line out this week.
In the past, they have tried to go toe-to-toe with the Dubs and they just don’t have the athleticism to match them.
Eamonn Fitzmaurice will know that and I think he will go with a very defensive game plan this week.
They will look to keep it tight and get plenty of numbers back and try and suffocate the likes of Diarmuid Connolly, Bernard Brogan, and Kevin McManamon.
Kerry have been waiting in the long grass since Dublin hammered them in the league final, and I think they will get their revenge on Sunday.
It’s a pity that a lot of GAA fans in Donegal will miss the All-Ireland semi-final, as it’s clashing with four games in the Michael Murphy Sports & Leisure SFC.
The games should have been moved, but I suppose clubs are in no mood to negotiate with their opposition this week.
Club players have been waiting a long time for the Championship to get underway again, although there are probably only a handful of teams that can win it.
Naomh Conaill are reigning champions and they have the best panel in Donegal. They take their football very seriously and it will take a good team to beat them.
St Eunan’s have not been in great form, but you would be foolish to write them off and they are getting stronger with every passing week.
Gaoth Dobhair have the players, with almost all their senior team having represented Donegal at some stage whether it be senior, under 21, or minor.
They haven’t won the Dr Maguire since 2006, and I know they’re starting to get restless down there!
Kilcar are one of the favourites to win the championship, and they have a huge amount of talent at their disposal.
If you look at Donegal this year, it was the likes of Ryan and Eoin McHugh, and Patrick McBrearty who delivered the big performances and they will all be wearing blue and yellow this week.
I’m involved with St Michael’s, and we find ourselves in the group of death along with Kilcar, St Eunan’s, and Killybegs.
We have a huge assignment this week in Towney against Kilcar, and while it’s not beyond the lads, it’s going to take a monumental effort to get anything down there.
The other game in our group sees Killybegs take on St Eunan’s, and it’s hard to look past the Lettekenny side.
I think Termon will put it up to Gaoth Dobhair, but the Magheragallon men will probably prevail.
Bundoran and Ardara have both been struggling at the bottom of Division 1, and I think the ‘Star of the Sea’ men might just edge that one on home turf.
Glenswilly will be up against it this week without Michael Murphy and Neil Gallagher, and there’s no sign of Ciaran Bonner either. Dungloe are in with a real chance of beating them on Sunday.
In the other game in Group D, Four Masters are going well and should win promotion back to Division 1, but Naomh Conaill will have too much for them this week.
Group C sees four Division 2 teams battling it out and I fancy Glenfin to come out on top in a lively encounter with MacCumhaills on Saturday.
Naomh Muire have had a tough season, but it wouldn’t surprise me if they defeat Malin.
I’d like to pass on my congratulations to Seamus Sweeney and his Donegal Philadelphia team on winning the Philadelphia Senior Championship last week.
It’s great to see Gaelic Games thriving so far away from home, and there’s a big Donegal connection to the winning club.
Seamus Sweeney hails from Creeslough and he’s a huge GAA man, and it’s fantastic that he looks after so many lads from the county when they are over for the summer.
Glenswilly’s Ruairi Crawford was team captain, while Gary Clancy and Diarmuid Spratt (both Bundoran), Lee McMonagle (St Eunan’s), Jack Quinn (Lifford), Willie Gillespie (Naomh Colmcille), and Joe Blaney (Gaeil Fhánada) were all part of the victorious team.
Another club that must be commended this week is Milford after they secured promotion to Division 1 for the first time in their history last Saturday.
It’s a magnificent achievement when you consider that they were playing in Division 4 in 2013.
Their success hasn’t come overnight. They have put the proper structures in place, and they have a dedicated group of players.
It shows what can be done through hard work, and it will give encouragement to a lot of clubs.
I’m sure when teams from Division 3 and 4 sit down next January to set out their plans for the season ahead, they will use Milford as an example of how you can make big strides forward in as short period of time.