BRIAN DORRIAN CUT a content enough figure after seeing his Donegal League Oscar Traynor Cup side get off on the right foot.
The Donegal League side opened with a 5-0 win over Cavan-Monaghan in Cootehill on Sunday and now have back-to-back home fixtures in a bid to earn a first or second placed finish to progress to the next round of the competition.
Last years’ winners, the Inishowen League, make the short journey west for the next fixture, which takes place on Sunday, November 15. Then, Dorrian’s team welcome Sligo-Leitrim two weeks’ afterwards.
On Sunday, Inishowen started with a 7-4 win over Sligo-Leitrim in Buncrana.
“It’s good to start with a few goals and a clean sheet,” Dorrian told Donegal Sport Hub.
The 3G pitch at John Sherlock Park took a little while to get the heads around but once Donegal found their feet, they ran out comfortable winners.
“It was quite dry to begin with,” Dorrian added. “So the little bit of rain that came did us no harm. Cavan-Monaghan created a few half-chances but our goalkeeper, Christopher Sweeney from Gweedore Celtic, didn’t really have a save to make.
Gary Merritt from Milford United scored the first of what would evolve into a hat-trick before the break and Ryan Gildea, who plays for Rathmullan Celtic, scored the second.
“For us, it was a matter of getting the breakthrough and when that came we could work from there. A 2-0 cushion by half-time was a nice one to have,” Dorrian added.
Gary Merritt is congratulated by his team mates after he opened the scoring for the Donegal Junior league against the Cavan/Monaghan League on sunday at John Sherlock Park in Cootehill. Photos by: Gary Foy, League PRO
Donegal, operating with a 4-3-3 formation, made use of their width as Cavan-Monaghan went 3-5-2 after the break. Goals might’ve came before they did, with Kyle Black adding the third on 72 minutes before two more from Merritt – a penalty and then an 88th minute volley – made for the 5-0 win.
“We might’ve scored more in the end but were happy enough to get off and running,” Dorrian added. “It’s a decent start.”
Last year, a 92nd minute winner from Anthony Doherty sealed a 2-1 win for Inishowen to catapult the peninsula dwellers onto the next round and knock Dorrian’s Donegal out.
Inishowen went the whole way from there, but this week manager Diarmuid O’Brien admitted that the fixture against the Donegal League was as tough a contest as they faced all season.
This year, there’s a realistic chance both can progress.
Since that loss 12 months ago, and with Inishowen showing the way in the national stages, Donegal have been pottering away behind the scenes. Paul Fisher, who worked with Donegal’s senior footballers last year, came on board with a fitness programme and Emmet Rushe briefed the players on preparation and nutrition.
“We know plenty about them and them about us,” Dorrian added of Inishowen. “I know Diarmiud well and they’re a very good side. We’ll treat them with the utmost respect of course but at the same time want to try and portray our own abilities. We’ve a good, experienced squad.”
“The loss last year was a hard one to take but we sat down afterwards and said we’d double our efforts for this year,” Dorrian said. “It’s a huge game in two weeks time – a real derby game.”