ST EUNAN’S reserve side have been left to carry the black and amber flag, and they are the Letterkenny club’s last chance of collecting a senior title this year.
Their senior team lost out to Gaoth Dobhair in the quarter-finals of the Donegal SFC, while their ladies team were defeated in the Intermediate final this year.
The hurlers impressed by reaching the county final but lost out to Setanta, while there was also disappointment for the club’s junior side, who were narrowly beaten by Glenswilly in the Senior ‘C’ Final three weeks ago.
However, their reserve team are still standing and are chasing Senior ‘B’ Championship glory once again this year, when they face Naomh Conaill in Sunday’s curtain-raiser
Team captain Mark Forde acknowledges that the town of Glenties is sure to be on a high this week as they have two teams in the final.
He knows that Naomh Conaill will not be easy opponents, but they are hoping to spoil the first part of county final day for them.
“It’s going to be a tough game. I don’t think I’ve ever played against Glenties when it’s been an easy game.
“There’s going to be a big buzz around Glenties, as their seniors are still in it. They will have been training hard for these last couple of weeks.
“It will be a tough battle and Glenties will bring the intensity. Hopefully we’ll be able to push on and match it, and then overcome it and go at them.”
The Letterkenny men got their hands on the Senior ‘B’ title last year with a final victory over Gaoth Dobhair.
They triumphed in that game by 1-10 to 0-7, but there have been a tweaks to the team since then.
Brendan Maguire has transferred back to Killybegs, while Blake Forkan, Conor Moore, and Dylan Sweeney have all been playing for St Eunan’s senior team this year.
“There’s been a few changes,” said Forde, who scored a point in last year’s decider.
“Last year we had a strong team, and a lot of those boys pushed on and played senior football this year.
“We’ve got a lot of boys coming through from the minors. There’s been five or six main changes with men coming in and that has freshened up the squad.
“Reserve teams are there to help players develop into senior footballers.
“But we hope that we still have a strong team there this year.”
St Eunan’s have some experienced heads to call upon through the likes of Kieran Sharkey and David O’Herlihy, while former full-back Mick Martin has been a revelation as a target men at full-forward.
However, Forde says the main point of reserve football is to help young players climb the ladder towards senior football.
‘Eunan’s enjoy plenty of success at underage level, but you can’t just expect those young lads to go in and flourish at senior grade straight away.
Jim Clarke is managing St Eunan’s and he is able to call upon talented youngsters like Sean Halvey, Kevin Kealy, and Darragh McWalters, who will all hope to be involved with the first string in the championship in 2018.
“I think the strength of a club is based on their reserve team,” said Forde.
“It’s a great stepping stone for young players to come up and play a bit of senior football.
“It maybe hasn’t got the same intensity, and there is a big difference between reserve and senior football, but at the same time, they learn a lot more than they would learn at underage, between taking hits and playing different styles and tactics.
“I find that reserve football is key to any club.”
With the ‘Eunan’s senior team knocked out of the championship at the quarter-final stage, the reserve side have had to train by themselves over the last couple of weeks.
The Catherdal Town outfit expect to make the county final every year, but they will have to settle for the curtain-raiser this time around.
“We’re the only senior team left now to bring a bit of silverware into the club.
“The boys were obviously disappointed as they put in a big effort his year, as did the reserves.
“We’ve been training hard all year, but unfortunately the seniors went out.
“Gaoth Dobhair were excellent that day, and you just have to put your hands up and say that Gaoth Dobhair deserved it that night unfortunately.”
Forde knows plenty about Naomh Conaill, and the DPD employee has enjoyed many battles with the Glenties men during his career.
He expects there to be a large crowd in for the start of the reserve match, and is hoping to see plenty of black and amber in the stand and on the terraces as well.
“Naomh Conaill bring support, no matter what age it is. It doesn’t matter if it’s reserves, seniors or underage, the support is always there for them. They make some noise.
“It’s going to be a battle and their support will be like a 16th man. We’re going to have to battle on the pitch and off it, to fight against that.
“We’ll get numbers out as well. We got numbers out last year for the final and our own fans stepped up to be fair.
“Hopefully they’ll make a bit of noise for us.”
St Eunan’s qualified for the final after an excellent 1-12 to 0-7 win over Gaoth Dobhair.
The highlight of that game was a magnificent late goal from the team captain, and he’s hoping to hit the net in the final again.
“Hopefully, but don’t be holding your breath. That was my first goal in about ten years.
“If it opens up now, hopefully I’ll be able to lash the old left peg at one and it will hit the back of the net.”