JUST A POINT will do for Drumkeen United as they aim to seal the Donegal Youth League title tomorrow when Gweedore United visit St Patrick’s Park, kick-off 12 noon.
Shaun Gallagher’s side have been in exceptional form this season, winning six from six to put them on the cusp of the title. For the door to be left ajar, Drumkeen would need to lose both their last two fixtures and then the likes of Gweedore Celtic and Letterkenny Rovers would need maximum points to force a play-off.
Photo caption: Shaun Gallagher in action for Drumkeen United against Bohemians in the second round of the FAI Cup at Dalymount Park in May 2012. Gallagher is now the manager of the Drumkeen side in the Donegal Youth League.
Bonagee United are Drumkeen’s opponents on the last day of the campaign, next weekend.
Rovers won the Donegal Youth League in each of the last four seasons but Gallagher always thought his team had a chance to disrupt the five-in-a-row dreams of the Leckview Park side. The big result came when Rovers were beaten 2-0 in Drumkeen in early November.
But for Drumkeen, their change in fortunes wasn’t down to that one result. They’ve been working towards something for some time and will continue to work towards it win, lose or draw tomorrow.
“To be fair, there were a few people tipping us at start of the season due to the strong squad we had assembled,” Gallagher said of how Drumkeen were perceived before a ball was kicked.
“It was a squad put together very quickly but from the very first training sessions it was clear to be seen that there were some very talented players there. I’d say it was more of a case that observers didn’t know a lot about us, thus we went in under the radar.”
It’s not that long since Drumkeen were taking on all comers in the intermediate ranks in the Ulster Senior League. In May 2012, they were paired against League of Ireland Premier Division side Bohemians in the FAI Cup and although soundly beaten 5-0 at Dalymount Park, the chance to even compete at what many still consider to be the home of Irish soccer was a huge achievement for the club.
The decision for the senior team to move back to the Old Orchard Saturday Division wasn’t one that was taken lightly, but it proves the club aren’t afraid to take what might be perceived as a backward step to take a forward one
Myles Conway and Hugo Bonner are overseeing the transition in that particular bracket and after an uneasy start, Drumkeen are now joint-top of the division with Arranmore United and Orchard United.
Conway and Bonner’s panel is a young one, who train along with Gallagher’s but the two squads are independent of one another come matchday. But having the numbers to keep two squads shows the direction Drumkeen are trying to take.
“Being honest, when even I played myself at Drumkeen I wouldn’t have known the names of any of the younger players,” Gallagher added. “I wasn’t interested either, but what has gone on with the core of the Ulster Senior League panel leaving and everyone getting that bit older, there was no young players coming through to push it on.
“I think simply that there was a generation gap and now that has evened out a bit now with the strong core of young players who have grown up together and played through all the age groups. Now we have two different panels – the Saturday League and the Youth League – and it would be ideal to have a few of the younger players around the Saturday team but Myles has his 19 or 20 players already.
“That’s where a Sunday team would have been be more beneficial, as now we have both the Saturday team and the Youth team playing on Saturdays, which isn’t really ideal. A Youth team is very important, but if there was a Sunday team, we would have five or six players involved in the Sunday team without affecting the Saturday team.”
The opening of the St Patrick’s Park astroturf last year was something that helps that collective training. Gone now are the evenings when it’s too wet of frozen and the respective squads trundle off home when there’s no facility to house the get-together.
“The the astro has been an unbelievable help,” Gallagher added. “We were able to train the two nights without having to look elsewhere or calling it off.
“We still want Drumkeen United to play at a high a level as is possible. That has to be the aim. It’s gonna be a hard road but the structures are there, trying to keep them involved playing soccer and involved in the club is the first step.
“Hopefully they do keep involved with the club. When they get that bit older and hopefully a bit of success underage can push them on and push the next group of Drumkeen underage players on. We have the chance to win the Donegal Youth League and it would be good for this squad as they are a fantastic bunch.
“But it would mean nothing if we didn’t push on and add to it and push the players on to achieve more. This, hopefully, is only the start of it.”
Drumkeen United squad: Carl Dunnion, Eamon Connaghan, Jonny Black, Padhraic Patton, Conor Roders, Anthony Bogle, Sean Peoples, Fergal O’Callaghan, Darren Bonner, Ryan Dullaghan, Kenan Gibson, Eoghan Kennedy, Micheal Guthrie, Stephen Carr, Conor Patton, Paddy Dolan, Lee Kennedy, Jerome Duffy.