THE hurt of last year’s final defeat by St Eunan’s is still in the air around Glenswilly.
County final defeats are always hard pills to swallow, but a loss against their fiercest foes has stuck in the throats a little longer.
County champions in 2011 and 2013, Glenswilly are back on a mission this year and can seal their place in the knockout stage with a win over Malin at Pairc Naomh Columba on Sunday (throw-in 5.30pm).
Michael Canning was the assistant manager to Gary McDaid last year but following McDaid’s appointment to Rory Gallagher’s backroom team it is now Canning who wears the Bainisteoir’s bib at Foxhall.
The quarter-finals are within touching distance following an opening evening win over Gaoth Dobhair in Magheragallon three months ago.
“We put huge emphasis on that Gaoth Dobhair game,” Canning told Donegal Sport Hub.
“We have a lot of hurt in us from last year so we’re trying to bottle it up in the correct way and we’re taking this one game at a time now.
“Malin, for us, is the big one and all we’re worried about. Hopefully we’ll be able to plan further ahead after this one.”
Michael Murphy and Neil Gallagher sat out last weekend’s defeat by St Michael’s in the League, but the Donegal stars will return this time, as will Joe Gibbons who served a suspension in that fixture.
Ciaran Bonner (pictured above) limped off in the first half against St Michael’s and a quad muscle injury means that the former Donegal player is a major doubt with Canning admitting that he is ‘sweating’ over Bonner’s fitness.
A decision on Bonner won’t be made until Sunday. Bonner aside, Glenswilly are at full tilt.
Christopher McMonagle, Paul O’Brien, Ethan Sweeney and Ryan Diver are among those to have forced their way into the first XV reckoning this year as Glenswilly look to build a squad.
Canning said: “That was something we looked at back at the start of the year. Myself and Gary talked after the final and we came to the conclusion that we didn’t have an awful lot of strength in depth.
“We wanted to work on that in the League. We weren’t really concerned about having the big players available because we wanted to give these guys some game time.
“By doing that we’d be increasing the probability of them giving us something come the Championship and they’ve all been brilliant.
“They’re not only giving us headaches for the team selection, but they’re pushing the others lads on and looking for positions.”
Canning is taking nothing for granted this weekend as he sets his sights on the top spot in the group.
He said: “Look, our ambition is to win the thing outright. To do that, we’ll have to play the top teams at some stage, but we do want to go through as the group winners.
“We know that Malin will be no pushovers, though. They beat St Eunan’s a couple of years ago and were very unlucky not to reach the final that year.”
Liam Bradley, the former Antrim manager, has endured a difficult first few months in the hotseat at Malin.
The Connolly Park side are bottom of Division 1, but Brendan McLaughlin’s late goal from a penalty against Sean MacCumhaills means they’re still alive and kicking in the Championship.
With away games against the heavyweights of Glenswilly and Gaoth Dobhair, the task could hardly be tougher.
“We know the challenge that’s ahead of us.” Bradley said.
“Glenswilly are extremely hard to beat and they are about much more than just Murphy and Gallagher. They’re such a strong side.
“I feel that we have a big game in us and it’s a game that we feel we are capable of winning.”
It will be an emotional evening in Pairc Naomh Columba.
There’ll be an empty chair by the sideline in front of the stand this week, following the death of the Glenswilly club president Finbarr Glackin, who will be buried on Sunday afternoon.
“Finbarr was always there at every game, whether it was a friendly, a League game or a Championship game, for words of encouragement,” Canning said.
“He was a big part of my life too. When I started playing senior in 2000 he was the manager. He came down to the house to me and I thought I was too young to play, but Finbarr played me and I’ll never forget him for that.
“Hopefully we can get two wins to honour his memory.”Tags: