St Eunan’s reserves won the Senior ‘B’ Championship title in impressive fashion last season, and they will be hoping to retain the crown when they take on Kilcar in Sunday’s curtain-raiser at 1.45pm
The Letterkenny men defeated Naomh Conaill by 3-13 to 0-10 in last year’s final, and there’s no doubt that they had an exceptional team.
From the side that took the final that day, James Kelly, Sean Ryan, Sean McGettigan, Brian McIntyre, and Eoin McGeehin have all gone on to nail down starting berths in the senior team in 2019, while Conor Moore, Jordan O’Dowd, and Jamie Doherty also featured regularly for the first string, as new manager Richard Thornton put his own stamp on things.
That means that St Eunan’s reserve side has a different feel to it this season, but they are still very strong, and one of their star players Lee McMonagle feels they are in a good place ahead of the meeting with Kilcar.
“Things are good. Everyone is fit and that’s what you want going into the county final.
“Anything can happen on the day, but we’re fit and as ready as we can be.”
McMonagle knows all about county final day, and famously scored a crucial goal in the 2012 Senior Championship triumph over Naomh Conaill.
He struggled to get into the senior side this season, but did get plenty of football with the reserves and he has become a key leader this season.
“It’s been great and we have a good team there. We have been training with the seniors all year, and the training has been good.
“We have a very young team. I’m the third oldest in the team at 25, and that probably shows how young the team are.
“The boys have played in plenty of county finals between minors and Under 21s so they will be ready come Sunday.”
“A lot of the boys would have played for the county at underage so there is plenty of experience there.
“They may be young in age, but they are experienced in the heads, and their feet are well planted.”
Mick Martin is managing St Eunan’s, and he has no shortage of talent in his team and McMonagle, Eoin O’Boyle, Anthony Gallagher, Michael Miller, Padraig McGettigan, Dylan Doogan, Oisin Toal, Donal Higgins, Michael McGroary, and Conor O’Donnell Jnr have all represented Donegal at underage level.
‘Eunan’s topped their group, and saw off Termon at the quarter-final stage.
Martin’s men then proved much too strong for Glenfin in the semi-final winning on a scoreline of 4-11 to 1-11 in Glenswilly.
McMonagle said: “We played well that day. In a few games this year we have been slow out of the blocks.
“In the Glenfin game, we came out very strong and got a few goals, and in fairness without the goals it wouldn’t have been as easy as it was.
“We got the goals and we flew on then, but Kilcar on Sunday is going to be very, very tight.
“They are going to be as equally young, and they’ll also have experience, so they will be very, very good.”
McMonagle admitted to being a tad surprised that Kilcar reached the final, but they produced a significant upset to defeat Naomh Conaill.
“Glenties on paper, you’d have looked at it and thought that they would have been in the county final, but nothing ever happens on paper.
“Kilcar are there on merit, and I think they have won all their games.
“You can’t look at league form either as it goes out the window in the championship, and that’s the same at every level.
“It will all come down to the day, and any team can win.”
Kilcar supporters were planning on heading to Ballybofey on county final day, but they had hoped they would be watching their seniors in action.
That wasn’t to be as Kilcar lost out to a strong Gaoth Dobhair team in the semi-final.
There wasn’t a huge amount expected of the Towney men’s reserve side but they have made it through to the final, and will carry the blue and gold flag this weekend.
“That’s the way it goes,” said Kilcar forward, Pauric Sweeney.
“We didn’t think at the start of the year that we would be in the reserve final, and our seniors wouldn’t (be in the final).
“Everyone was thinking that it would be the senior team that would be in the final this Sunday.
“We’re the last team standing and all we can do is go out and give it our best.”
Sweeney is 33 now and he is a survivor from the Kilcar team that won the Reserve title in 2011 when they beat Four Masters by two points, with Ryan and Eoin McHugh the star players in that team.
Gerard McBrearty lined out in that decider and is still going strong, but it is a youthful Kilcar side, who are managed by Paddy McShane and Neilly Byrne.
Daniel Lyons has represented the county at minor level, while Ryan O’Donnell, Cormac Cannon, Jason Campbell, and Darragh O’Donnell are all talented players.
Sweeney said: “The last time we were in a reserve final was 2011 so we’re really looking forward to it especially the younger lads.
“It’s great to get playing against St Eunan’s in the final. They have some pedigree at reserve level over the last few years.”
Kilcar will go in as underdogs, and they know how dangerous St Eunan’s can be after losing heavily to them in the semi-final last year.
The Towney side fancied their chances of winning that game on a wet, blustery day in Killybegs.
However, St Eunan’s had 1-14 on the scoreboard by half-time and cruised home to victory.
“Last year we were going into that game and we were looking forward to it. We actually gave ourselves a good chance.
“But once the game started, they blew us out of the water. They got a good start and kicked on from there.
“They are a serious outfit and a serious footballing team. The great thing about ‘Eunan’s is that they will play football against you.”