WHEN THEIR toes were pinned with the favourites’ tag at the start of 2015, Bundoran seemed comfortable.
They were at ease sitting at the top of the bookmakers’ chalkboards.
Although the proved convincing winners of the Donegal IFC in the end, there were times when it appeared as if the billing was resting heavily up the shoulders.
They had to show all of their might, determination and, as Brian Gavigan, their manager, stresses, ‘guts’ to see off Aodh Ruadh in a semi-final.
Games against the club with whom they were once joined at the hip during an all-conquering era in the 1960s and 70s are always intense.
This one went right to the wire and Jamie Brennan’s point in injury time won the day for Bundoran – who meet Loughinisland from Down in the Ulster IFC final tomorrow at Owenbeg.
By then, with just two hurdles to clear, Bundoran had started to train in Cavan one night a week.
It was a plan hatched at Fr Tierney Park, too.
After breezing through the group phase of the competition, Bundoran were pitted with Naomh Bríd in the quarter-final.
“The way it was structured, we knew that we’d come out of the group,” half-back Paul Brennan says.
“We knew we’d make it through into the quarter-finals. As much as players didn’t like it, Brian (Gavigan, manager) structured the training so we weren’t flying for the first Championship game.
“We were preparing for this time of year, which is when you want to be at the top of your game.”
That evening against Naomh Bríd, Bundoran very nearly came unstuck.
Early goals by Shane Walsh and David Walsh had Naomh Bríd controlling things, only for Jamie Brennan to goal and breathe life into Bundoran.
With Naomh Bríd clinging to their lead a Christy Keaney effort from long range squeezed through the fingers of Pauric McDaid and Bundoran were on their way.
“Our backs were against the wall and we blitzed them in the second half,” Gavigan says.
For an age, after the 2-10 to 2-5 win, Bundoran men stood huddled tightly on the pitch. They knew they’d played the get-out-of-jail card.
“We got a real scare that night,” captain Tommy Hourihane says.
“We were in the huddle and we knew that we were nearly out.
“Naomh Bríd had two goals and the next thing David Walsh was cutting inside again. He decided to fist it over the bar.
“Maybe it was the way that Johnny (Keenan) had positioned himself in goals, but he put it over. If Walsh had taken another step and put it in, we were gone.”
It was there, in the huddle, that they decided to change their plans. They’d train as a unit one night a week in Cavan.
“A couple of us said that we’d have to meet half-way to get the intensity back,” Hourihane says.
“It’s one day a week and while it is tiring, when everyone is doing it you don’t mind. We all chip in to pay for the petrol and to pay for the facilities.”
Gavigan has left nothing to chance with Bundoran since he assumed control for the League promotion-relegation play-off against St Michael’s last year. Charlie O’Donnell had parted ways in the weeks beforehand and Brian McEniff returned for a brief spell as interim boss.
Gavigan was unsure as to 2015. He pondered long and pondered hard.
“Brian was humming and hawwing over Christmas, but he took it,” Hourihane says.
“Colin Barrett and Darragh Dolan came in with him and the thing has gone up a few notches again. The thing could have fallen apart completely when Charlie left, but the boys have done a great job.”
There were moments this year when they wobbled, but Bundoran now stand at the threshold of history.
The tests and the scares have all shown Gavigan that his men are ready to take the next step.
He says:” “Bundoran would have been known for maybe being soft in years gone by, but the boys have shown this year that they have a bit of guts.”Tags: