DOWNINGS selector John Byrne says the club are using the Donegal Gaeltacht Finals this weekend, as a trial run before they host the National Cómortas Peile na Gaeltachta on the June Bank Holiday.
The Rosguill club are busy preparing for that weekend, and are this week putting the finishing touches to their new state-of-the-art pitch.
It’s just four weeks until clubs from all over the county arrive in Downings for a weekend of gaelic games and Irish culture, and while this week’s activities won’t be on the same scale, it’s still a good opportunity to get the local community mobilised before the big event.
“There’s been a huge pull from the club and the local area to get things into place,” said Byrne.
“We held a draw at Easter time, and we picked up almost double the amount we were expecting to.
“It was very well received and there were tickets being bought all over the world for it.
“This is like a trial run this weekend, and we’re hoping that everything will go to plan.
“We still have a bit of fixing up to do, and the nets only went up on our new pitch this week.
“The community has jumped on it, and people are willing to help out. Our senior players have chipped in with painting, and tidying up loose ends.
“We are going to have two great weekends, and it will be brilliant for our underage teams to see the top clubs from all over the country coming to Downings.”
Byrne is one member of an extensive management team that was compiled by Kevin ‘Cookie’ Gallagher at the start of the season.
Gallagher has since stepped away due to work and personal reasons, but Downings have still made a good start to the year, and Byrne says the players are all working hard.
“Cookie pulled everyone in together at the start of the season. Micheal Bradley was in assistant manager, and myself and Shane McClafferty are selectors.
“Brian Boyce is also involved, and Bobby Roberts and Barney Curran are training the team. Barry ‘Fenny’ (McBride) and John Coyle are goalkeeping coaches.
“We are all working and are busy, and Cookie’s idea was to share the workload.
“He also got Adam Speer to help out with strength and conditioning, and the lads have put in a big effort with that.
“We have been training since December, but Cookie has a young family and he works with McDaid’s in Ramelton, and they are very busy at the moment.
“He couldn’t give it his full commitment, and felt it was unfair on the lads when they were putting in so much.
“Everyone else is still involved and Micheal is now manager. Cookie will still help out when he can, and pop down to the odd training.”
After suffering the disappointment of relegation last year, Downings have knuckled down in 2018.
That hard work over the winter months has paid off, and they have made an impressive start to the season, winning their five games.
Byrne said: “We had some important wins against Letterkenny Gaels and Naomh Colmcille, and then we were very, very lucky to beat Carn on Saturday. They are the best team we have played so far.
“We won the All-Ireland Gaeltacht and the Junior Championship in 2016, and then we pretty much lost the spine of that team last season.
“Thankfully we have young lads coming in this year like Shane McTeague, Oisin McBride, Padraig McGinty, and Keelan McGroddy.
“Shaun ‘Bees’ (McBride), David Hay, and Shea Coyle are back too, so we have competition for places, and lads know that they have to train if they want to play.
“Obviously having the All-Ireland in your back yard is a good incentive, but we’re happy with the buy-in from the lads.
“Things are going well, but it was really only for 30 minutes against Muff that we played like we can.
“We haven’t clicked fully yet.”
Downings are through to the National Gaeltacht semi-final, regardless of what happens this week, however, they would still like to land the Donegal crown on home territory.
If they are to do so, then they will likely have to see off Gaeil Fhánada in the final on Monday, and the Fanad men will be determined to spoil their neighbours’ party.
However, Byrne says they have to get past their semi-final with Kilcar’s second team before they can start worrying about a big derby encounter.
“We have struggled against Division 1 reserve teams before. Back in 2016, we were nearly beaten by Ardara.
“You don’t know what you’ll be facing this week. Anyone who didn’t play in the senior Gaeltacht could be playing.
“We’ve got to be careful and make sure we get past Sunday’s game.
“I’m sure it will be the same for Fanad, they have to win a game as well to reach the final.
“Fanad are probably the team to beat because they’re doing well in Division 3.
“But we have had good games against them recently, and we wouldn’t fear them if we played them.
“But all our focus is on the Kilcar match first and foremost.”
Downings and Kilcar will get the action underway on Sunday, before Gaeil Fhánada’s will go head-to-head with Ardara’s second string.
Mervyn O’Donnell’s Gaoth Dobhair face Division 2 side Naomh Columba in the first senior semi-final on Sunday at 4.30pm, and the action will conclude with the meeting of Naomh Conaill and Glenswilly.
The Senior Gaeltacht Final will take place at 3.30pm on Bank Holiday Monday, with the Junior decider set for a 1.30pm throw-in time.
Old foes Termon and Glenfin will square off in the Ladies Senior Gaeltacht Final on Saturday at 6pm.
There will be a derby game in the Intermediate Ladies Final on Monday with Milford and Gaeil Fhánada competing for the silverware, while Downings will hope to secure the Junior Ladies crown against Naomh Columba.
Comórtas Péile Na Gaeltachta 2018
Seo iad na socraithe don deireadh seachtain 5u – 7u Bealtaine.
De Sathairn 5u Bealtaine
6 i.n. Peil Na mBan – Sinsir
An Tearmann v Gleann Fhinne
De Domhnaigh 6u
Cluichi Ceannais Faoi-14
11-00 i.n. An Clochan Liath v Gleann Fhinne
Cluichi Leath Ceannais
1-00 i.n. Na Dunaibh v Cill Chartha
2-30 i.n. Gaeil Fhanada v Ard An Ratha
4-30 i.n. Gaoth Dobhair v Naomh Columba
6 i.n. Naomh Conaill v Gleann tSuili
De Luan 7u
Peil Na mBan
10-00 r.n. Idirmheanach
Baile Na nGalloglach v Gaeil Fhanada
11-30 r.n. Soisear
Na Dunaibh v Naomh Columba
1-30 i.n. Cluiche Ceannais Shoisear
3-30 i.n. Cluiche Ceannais Shinsir
The event, hosted by the Letterkenny 24/7 Triathlon Club, had been in the planning for quite a while.