02 Oct 2022

‘Kilcar drew the short straw and Naomh Conaill are there for the taking’

Glenswilly manager Pauric Bonner believes Kilcar got the worst draw possible in St Eunan's in the Donegal SFC and predicts an upset as Gaoth Dobhair take on Naomh Conaill

‘Kilcar drew the short straw and Naomh Conaill are there for the taking’

Aaron Deeney of St Eunan's and Andrew McClean from Kilcar clash in the 2020 Donegal SFC and, inset, Glenswilly manager Pauric Bonner

Kilcar in the eyes of many observers pulled the short straw when the draw for this year’s Donegal SFC semi-final pairings was made on Sunday night.

Already the All-County Football League Division 1 holders, Kilcar now face reigning champions St Eunan’s, in their pursuit of the Dr Maguire Cup, on Saturday night.

Naomh Conaill, last year’s beaten finalists, and Gaoth Dobhair meet in the other top four clash the following afternoon. Up until last Sunday evening and well into their quarter-final clash with Naomh Conaill, Glenswilly were in the hunt for one of those top four finishes. Naomh Conaill thanks to second half goals from Eunan Doherty and Leo McLoone clinched their place in the semi-final on a 2-10 to 0-10 scoreline after being pushed all the way.

“It’s clear we left it behind us in the first half,” said Glenswilly manager Pauric Bonner. “But fair play to Naomh Conaill, they took their chances and that is something we will take from the game. You simply have to take the bulk of the chances when they present themselves. But given how the championship went we have something to build on now for next season.”
Bonner, a former Dungloe player, feels St Eunans and Kilcar are the top two sides in the county right now.

“Opinions will differ on the order between St Eunans and Kilcar for the top two and on Naomh Conaill and Gaoth Dobhair, on who is third and who is fourth.

“The only downside for the two, St Eunans and Kilcar, is that they are going into the semi-final without being tested. And I am aware that Bundoran ran Kilcar close in the final of their group games but Kilcar were without Ciaran McGinley and Patrick McBrearty for that game and they are two huge players for them.

“No questions at all have been asked of St Eunan’s in the championship so far and they are really flying and playing really well all over the field. I watched their game against St Michaels on Saturday evening and they just cruised through that game.
Conor O’Donnell was brilliant in the half-back line and they were on top in all positions.

“Then you look at the subs bench and they had Peter Devine, Conor Morrision, Kieran Tobin, Pádraig McGettigan and James Kelly, with Darragh Mulgrew also to come back.

“Kilcar are a very good side too and they seem to have kicked onto another level this year. Ryan McShane has been brilliant for them at corner-back and is not afraid to venture forward and take a score.

“Conor Doherty has played at wing back and centre-forward and is playing really well. Ciaran McGinley constantly turns in big performances for them in the middle of the field and Patrick McBrearty is having a brilliant season for them in the full-forward line.

“And then you have Ryan, Mark and Eoin McHugh, Andrew McClean and Stephen McBrearty, all first class players. Kilcar have great pace in the team and they are transferring the ball much quicker to the inside forwards this season and they are very dangerous on the break. They certainly have the players to ask serious questions of St Eunans.

“St Eunans, I imagine, is not the draw they wanted and is the short straw for them. If they are to beat St Eunan’s they are going to have to play out of their skins and they are going to get a big game out of Patrick McBrearty.
“St Eunans have moved on from last year, gone up a level and are a serious side with a serious squad and probably have the men to restrict Patrick McBrearty, even if he is on the top of his form.”

As for the second semi-final clash of Naomh Conaill and Gaoth Dobhair, Bonner believes it is going to be a dogfight.
“We played Glenties twice in the championship, drew with them the first day out in Glenswilly and went down by six points to them in last Sunday’s quarter-final,” he said. “I honestly believe after those two meetings Glenties are there for the taking this season. They do seem to have gone back a little.

“If Gaoth Dobhair are brave and go at them I would give them a great chance of winning. Gaoth Dobhair are known for their high press on kick-outs and if they do that against Stephen McGrath, it will put them under pressure. Gaoth Dobhair and have stumbled through the championship so far.

“But they seem to be getting stronger personnel-wise as the championship progresses. Odhran Mac Niallais and Daire Ó ’Baoill are back, while Eamon McGee is playing well. And in Michéal Roarty and Donal McBride, Trevor Alcorn has unearthed a great combination in the middle of the field.

Gavin McBride has been effective at full-forward. He is one man that could trouble the Naomh Conaill rearguard with a decent supply.

“I just have a sneaking suspicion that Gaoth Dobhair are going to win this one. I know they are short a number of key players but I just believe they might just shade it. Now we also know that when Naomh Conaill have been written off in the past they turned things around. Write them off at your peril!”

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