GAA: U16 Championship final
ST Eunan’s and Sean MacCumhaills will contest the U16 A County final in Convoy on Sunday afternoon, throw-in 2.30pm.
It will be the fifth meeting of the sides this year, with the black and amber unbeaten in that sequence of results.
While St Eunan’s have performed well up the whole way through the underage ranks, they’ve been forced to play second fiddle to Sean MacCumhaill’s in the Northern Board region at this age group – until this year.
The Twin Towns club held sway in both the U13 and U14 County deciders between the teams but ‘Eunan’s managed to see off the Finnsiders in the Northern Board League semi-final earlier this year and they have not looked back since. That point is not lost on St Eunan’s manager, Pauric Ryan, who is joined on the sidelines by Sean McIntyre, PJ Kelly and Joe Higgins.
“MacCumhaill’s were always that little bit too strong for us every other year but we’ve managed to get the better of them this year and have won all four of our meetings so far. Here’s hoping that we can make it five in a row this weekend,” Ryan said.
Led by team captain and goalkeeper Eoin O’Boyle who, together with Peter McEniff, were Buncrana Cup representatives, St Eunan’s boast a very strong spine to their team with James Kelly at full-back and Ryan’s son, Sean, the club’s centre-back. With Shane O’Donnell and Conor McKinney patrolling midfield and players the quality of Darragh Elison, Conor O’Donnell and Michael Gallagher in attack, they have a number of talented players within their ranks. One player who won’t be available this weekend through is Patrick Tobin (holiday).
“We’ve enjoyed a good season to date and it would be nice to finish the year off by winning the Championship but we’ve all been around long enough to know that it’s all down to the players and which team plays better on the day. Our boys have been excellent for us all year and, hopefully, they can end with a win. They’ve put in the work all year,” he said.
St Eunan’s overcame the challenge of Naomh Columba in last Sunday’s semi-final while MacCumhaills proved too strong for Killybegs.
“I suppose it just had to be ‘Eunan’s again. We’re well sick of them at this stage,” MacCumhaills manager Luke Gavigan joked when contacted this week.
Joined by mentors Terry O’ Reilly, Ciaran Gilhooley and Eugene Gallen, it’s Gavigan’s job to try to turn things around in what is the biggest game of the year for club.
“Not only did they beat us in the Northern final, but it was their fourth win over us this year alone, but I suppose we’ll fulfil the fixture anyway and see what happens,” he laughed.
Gavigan’s young charges won the U13 and U14 Donegal Championship titles, defeating St Eunan’s on both occasions, while most of their players were involved in last year’s U16 final, a game ‘Eunan’s won.
“They’re a very well balanced team with no weaknesses while we’re struggling for numbers which makes a massive difference. We haven’t managed to get within seven points of them this year as they always seem to be able to score a goal or two while we have to rely on points. We’re on the backfoot at this stage. We had a poor start to the league and, while we’ve improved over recent games, I don’t know whether it will be enough to challenge ‘Eunan’s,” he said.
Luke Gavigan Jnr, Chad McSorley and Oisin ‘Farah’ Gallen were all on the Buncrana Cup squad while centre half back Joe Boyle, Jack Burke and Jamie Keegan are among a group of very talented players in their squad.
“To reach a County final is a big achievement for a club like MacCumhaills who don’t get to too many. This group have managed to get there the whole way up (from U-12) to date and hopefully it will help to make MacCumhaills a much stronger club in the years to come,” Gavigan said. Next year will mark the 40th anniversary of the club’s last title at senior level.
Meanwhile, St Eunan’s will play Four Masters in the U13 County final – also in Convoy on Sunday – throw-in 1pm.
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