TIME WAS WHEN Kilcar and Four Masters were kings.
Twice in the 1980s – in 1982 and 1985 – they crossed paths in the Donegal SFC final with Four Masters winning in ’82 and Kilcar coming out on top in ’85.
Four Masters were champions in 1984, but have added just one Dr Maguire to their list since, that coming in 2003, while Kilcar haven’t taken Donegal football’s most coveted prize since 1993.
They meet in a quarter-final on Saturday at Eamonn Byrne Memorial Park in Killybegs with the carrot of a semi-final place dangling before them.
Despite being touted to end the famine in recent years, Kilcar haven’t managed a modern day breakthrough yet, while Four Masters are in a period of transition following a haemorrhaging of their senior panel.
The squad at Tir Chonaill is without Paul Durcan, Luke Keaney, Peadar Espey, Raymie McGroary, Conor McDaid, Jamie McCrea, Conor McMonagle, Conor Rooney, John Boyle and Brian Egan, all of whom played last year.
“We started against Cloughaneely with nine under-21 players and two more under-21s came off the bench,” selector Kieran Espey points out.
“We have quite a gape from the 19-20 year-olds to the boys at 27-28. Things are starting to come together.
“From last year, we’ve lost the best goalkeeper in the country in Paul Durcan, Luke Keaney was on the Donegal senior panel and Peadar Espey was our top scorer in 2014.
“I have to say now, though, things are good and we’re actually in good form.
“One thing about us this year in comparison to other years is that we’re getting stronger this time, I feel.
“Last year, when we went to play St Eunan’s in a quarter-final, we were just patching things up and we were losing players.
“Now we’re actually quite strong and we’re optimistic for Saturday.”
Kevin McBrearty, who was on the fringes of the Donegal panel at the turn of the year, has returned to fitness again and featured in the win over Cloughaneely, his first 60 minutes of the year.
Karl Lacey’s knee ligament trouble has eased while Dillon Muldoon and Dylan Ward are available again, although there will be no place for Darren Doherty, who is just off crutches having broken an ankle.
Four Masters appointed former Tyrone player Ciaran McBride as their boss for this season and Espey is on the backroom team.
He believes the Donegal town side can make life difficult for Kilcar.
He says: “ We always play reasonably well against Kilcar. They beat us 0-11 to 0-7 in the League. We just weren’t able to close it out that day. Darren Doherty hit the bar for a goal that would have put us five up at one stage.
“There’s a lot of history between the clubs, but maybe not much in modern times.”
Kilcar eased through the group stage this year, having failed to make the knockout phase in 2014, with wins over Naomh Muire, Killybegs and Termon.
The clock now reads 22 years – the gap to 1993 and the last time Dr Maguire was taken into Towney.
“Too long”, says Michael Molloy, the man now entrusted with ending the drought.
“We haven’t even been to a final since 1993. That’s far too long for Kilcar. But the way it is, you’ve got to earn your place there.
“If you talk of county players, we’ve had so many in recent years, but at the same time we’re still only a small club and if you have one or two missing it can make a huge difference.
“Last year was a huge disappointment to bow out so early. That’s what one defeat can do and we’re back at that scenario again.
“We won the League last year, but no way does that make up for going out of the Championship. The Championship is what we’re aiming for.”
Eoin McHugh is a big doubt for the south-west men because of a groin strain, but Patrick McBrearty has returned to full fitness again.
Molloy says: “We’re happy with where we’re at and we’re happy with the group. The games so far have been no different to what we expected and we know this weekend that Four Masters will be extremely hard to beat.
“There are no second chances now so we just have to give it our best shot.
“You can’t write any of the quarter-finalists off – you take them for granted at your peril.”
With the McBreartys – Patrick and Stephen – the McHughs – Mark, Ryan and Eoin – along with Ciaran McGinley, Conor Doherty and Michael Hegarty, Kilcar have their share of aces.
Molloy has taken over the reigns having been on the backroom team of Rory Gallagher and John McNulty last year.
He had a previous stint as manager in the late 1990s. He was player-manager initially, but the comparisons between then and now are stark.
“It’s a huge difference,” he says. “The amount of time managers put in now is unreal and the season is way longer – it’s dragged out too much and that really needs to be sorted out for club players.”Tags: