LAST weekend was truly a memorable one for young GAA star Dáire Ó Baoill, who secured two provincial medals.
On Saturday evening, Ó Baoill was given a chance for the Donegal senior team and impressed as his side landed the Dr McKenna Cup for the first time since 2010.
There wasn’t much time to reflect on that triumph as he headed for Creggan, Antrim on Sunday.
He was influential as Gaoth Dobhair defeated Lavey in the Ulster Under 21 Club Tournament to become the first team from Donegal to bring the Paddy McLarnon Cup back to the county.
Ó Baoill was delighted to add two more medals to the Ulster Under 21 Championship one he claimed Donegal in 2017, and his trophy cabinet is starting to fill up nicely.
“You don’t get those types of weekends too often,” said Ó Baoill.
“It’s very special for me to get the two Ulster medals – I went long enough without one, until last year.
“I managed to pick up two in the one weekend now to add to it, and that’s hard to beat.”
O’Baoill featured for Donegal as a late substitute against Queen’s University and Armagh earlier this season, but he was named in the starting line-up against Tyrone on Saturday night.
It didn’t take him long to make an impact as he dissected the posts from distance after only 26 seconds.
He would go on to add another point, and was satisfied with his own performance.
“It was good to get my first start with the seniors. It was a game I was looking forward to and I just tried to do my best.
“I was told to work hard and just open up the legs whenever I got the chance.
“They said to me to enjoy it and see how I felt out on the pitch.
“I’m young and I knew I could play the whole match, and still give sixty minutes again the next day.”
Ó Baoill admitted that he wasn’t feeling overly fresh when he woke up on Sunday morning, but his club had an important match and there was no way he was going to miss out.
Gaoth Dobhair were beaten at the semi-final stage of the Ulster Under 21 Tournament last year, on a day when Ó Baoill was black-carded just as they threatened to pull clear.
With that defeat still fresh in the memory, there was no shortage of motivation for the Magheragallon men.
“Last year, our inexperience cost us. We threw away the semi-final against Watty Graham’s when we were six points up at half-time.
“I think we were seven points up against Lavey at half-time, and we knew we weren’t going to make the same mistakes as last year.
“We just kept focussed and working hard, and made sure we kept hold of the ball when we had it.
“We defended well, and suffocated them when they tried to come forward. It was good enough to get us the win.”
Lavey came into the final on the back of impressive victories over Galbally (Tyrone), and Southern Gaels (Cavan).
However, it was evident from early in the match that Tom ‘Beag’ Gillespie’s Gaoth Dobhair had their number and they went on to win by 13 points.
“We knew from their other games in the competition, that they weren’t going to be a pushover.
“They were like any Derry team – they were big and strong, and they could fairly move with the ball.
“We knew a lot about them going up, and our managers and players had them sussed out.”
Gaoth Dobhair scored four goals in their victory, with Cian Mulligan netting a hat-trick.
With the exception of Mulligan’s second goal – which was a fine individual three-pointer – the rest came from sweeping team moves, and Ó Baoill says it doesn’t matter who puts the ball in the net, as long as it gets there.
“It’s a team effort. Nobody wants to be that top player that does all the scoring. ‘Mugsy’ (Cian Mulligan) got three goals, but they could have been scored by anyone.
“We’ve been working on running off the shoulder with support runs for years and years.
“It’s a huge part of our game, and nearly every time someone goes through, he has a man to his right and to his left.
“It’s all about taking the right option then, and we took the right ones against Lavey.”
The Gaoth Dobhair team are unbeaten since they won the Under 16 Championship in 2012, and have landed county titles at Minor and Under 21 level in the intervening years.
After reaching the semi-finals of the Donegal SFC last year, there will be an expectation that they will now push through and start competing for the Dr Maguire Cup.
Ó Baoill says they are in no hurry, but are determined to make their mark after dominating underage football.
“We’re just taking it step-by-step.
“We kept to our own age group, and we wrote our own history at that level.
“We’ll take it from there now, and it might not be for another year or two yet, but this team will stick together, and we’re going to bring it right through to senior level, and we’ll try to write our own history there too.”
It’s been a busy start to the year for Ó Baoill, who also lined out for Maynooth University in the Sigerson Cup.
It isn’t likely to slow down as he continues to line out for his club, and his county.
The 20-year-old is enjoying being part of Declan Bonner’s senior panel, and is aiming to improve his game in the coming months.
“It’s brilliant to be involved – I’m enjoying every minute of it.
“I’m just trying to keep the head down and work hard. The training sessions are brilliant, but it’s good craic as well.
“I’ve won two out of two trophies already this year, and hopefully we can add to that before the year is out.
“It’s going to be a long season, but I’m looking forward to it. It’s just about doing the simple things and trying to improve in every training session, and every game.”
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