No Bones About It

Declan Bonner

DECLAN BONNER: Tough test for Glenswilly in Ulster

glenswilly-v-kilcar-32
AFTER a superb victory against Kilcar in the county final, Glenswilly now move on to the Ulster Club Championship, and that is a competition that they will be determined to do well in.

It’s only three years since they reached the provincial final, with Ballinderry just proving too strong despite a spirited performance.

They’re back on the trail of Ulster glory now, but they have been handed a really tough assignment in the quarter-final.

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Kilcoo are one of the favourites to win Ulster, and they have a real desire to come out on top this season.

They have been Down champions for five successive years, but they haven’t had as much luck in the province.

However, with Crossmaglen Rangers not qualifying this year, and buoyed on by a terrific preliminary round win over Scotstown, you can be sure that Kilcoo fancy their chances this term.

Glenswilly will go into the last-eight encounter as big underdogs again, but they won’t mind that tag and they will relish a battle against a team that are renowned for enjoying a physical encounter.

It will be tough and feisty, and that’s the way Glenswilly like it. They’ll try to make it into a dogfight and they always back themselves in those situations.

Kilcoo have a lot of quality players, and even with Jerome Johnston out injured, they still have plenty of firepower.

Conor Laverty and Paul Devlin are very good players, while Martin Devlin also has a lovely left foot.

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Ryan Johnston is one on the brightest young talents in Ulster, and they have four Brannigans in defence, who are all teak-tough competitors.

Darragh O’Hanlon, who has represented Down at senior level, is playing at full-back for the Magpies, and they will hope that he can get a handle on Michael Murphy.

Interestingly, Kilcoo are managed by Paul McIver, who will know plenty about Glenswilly after being involved with his father Brian when he managed Donegal.

I’m sure the men from the Glen will have done their homework as well, but the reality is that they are probably going to have to play even better than they did against Kilcar to win.

They were very clinical in the county final, and they will need to be ruthless in attack again.

They’ll be working off small margins, and they will need to maximise all their opportunities.

When you have Michael Murphy and Neil Gallagher in your team, you’ll never be too far away, and I’d imagine that duo will rotate to and from full-forward, and Glenswilly will look to hit them early with quality ball.

It’s a tough ask, and Michael Canning’s team will need everyone performing to a high level.

They really emptied themselves against Kilcar, and it will be difficult to replicate that display.

It would be fantastic for Donegal football if Glenswilly could get past Kilcoo, but I think they will be against it this week.

Downings are also in Ulster action this Sunday in the Junior section, and Andy Connor’s team will need to up it from the Donegal final.

They were fortunate to get past Naomh Pádraig, Muff and they struggled against a well-organised defensive structure.

The Rosguill men will have worked on that over the last three weeks, but they will still be very much dependent on Lorcan Connor and Colin Gallagher for scores, while they will be hoping that Gary ‘Ban’ McClafferty is fit for action.

It’s never easy going away from home, but I’m sure if Downings had to pick anywhere, they would have chosen Celtic Park.

It’s a great ground, and for their supporters, it’s only an hour away.

Faughanvale reached the Ulster Final last season, but Derry teams generally do struggle in the Junior Championship and I don’t think Downings will fear Magilligan this week.

MacCumhaill’s are out in the Ulster Junior Hurling Championship Final this week, and I’m sure the Twin Towns are buzzing with excitement.

It’s a great honour for a club to reach a provincial decider, and hopefully they will do themselves justice in Owenbeg on Sunday.

Club Players Association

There has been a lot of talk about the formation of a Club Players Association in recent years, and it looks like the concept will now finally happen.

The CPA is being driven by former Clontibret manager Declan Brennan, who is well known throughout the country, after being involved with DCU.

The intercounty players are represented by the GPA (Gaelic Players Association) and they look after the interest of the elite men in the GAA.

However, they only make up a small percentage of the people who play our national sport.

I remember back to when I was playing and there have always been issues for the club footballer, who was treated as a second-class citizen in comparison with his intercounty counterpart, and it’s even worst now.

We’ve seen on our own doorstep how badly club players are being treated when Burt were forced to play two games in two days, and a team from Roscommon found themselves in a similar position last weekend.

The Dublin quarter-finals were played last week on Wednesday and Thursday night, and the semi-finals are midweek games as well.

That kind of thing has to end because players are investing too much time and energy to have their season rushed to a conclusion.

I think it’s great that the club player will now be represented and hopefully the CPA can make some progress, although it will be difficult.

There are so many competitions to try and fit in that isn’t easy to schedule fixtures, and there is the obvious problem that there isn’t enough football being played in the summer months when the intercounty season is in full swing.

I do think that the Donegal CCC and their secretary Declan Martin deserve some credit for the way they have run off the All-Couny League this season.

Going into the final weekend of October, there is only one round of fixtures left in Division 1 and 2, while the fourth tier action is concluded.

Division 3 is the only one the league that has been held up, and that is mainly due to the fact that a dual club Burt did well in both codes this year.

That is an improvement on previous years, but they still haven’t formed the perfect formula.

Clubs that exited the championship early were waiting a month to play crucial league games and it’s hard to keep it together with that kind of lay-off.

I believe one thing we have to try and do is get the leagues finished up before the championship starts.

I was involved with St Michael’s this year and it’s tough on players and coaches because you nearly have two seasons in one.

For the last couple of years, we’ve had one championship game in either May or June, and the rest of the competition after Donegal’s season is completed.

You’re trying to get men in good condition for early in the season, but it’s very hard to keep them motivated when they know they won’t play championship again for another three months.

I feel we would be better playing the leagues to a conclusion and then starting the championship.

I would introduce a seeding system in the Senior Championship where the top four teams in Division 1 are the top seeds for every group, and the next four are second seeds, and so on.

That may be harsh on clubs who would be competing in Division 2 or 3, but it would be an incentive for them to push hard in the league and climb up the ladder.

Some clubs may suggest that their league standing would suffer as they might not have their county men, but so be it. There has to be compromises somewhere.

Nationally, it’s a no-brainer that the intercounty season has to be condensed and it needs to finish at least a month earlier to allow more time for club football.

We have talked about this for a long time and various people have suggestions, and at least now, it will be debated within the CPA, and I hope they can make strides forward.

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