LAST YEAR left a sour taste in Glenties, but they were quick to get their minds focussed on another Championship assault.
They lost a controversial SFC semi-final to Glenswilly.
Appeals to the GAA’s hierarchy failed after Naomh Conaill fought the fight when they felt aggrieved that a replacement was permitted for Ciaran Bonner, already booked in the game, when he was black carded.
The saga put the final in doubt for a time, but when the dust settled there was no doubt that Naomh Conaill believed they’d been wronged, particularly after the Ulster Council ruled in their favour in December.
By then, Martin Regan had come to accept that his playing days were spent, owing to persistent back problems.
Picture caption: Naomh Conaill manager Martin Regan in interviewed by Chris McNulty of Donegal Sport Hub. Picture courtesy of Gary Foy, newsandsportfiles
Cathal Corey had first been brought to Davy Brennan Memorial Park by Jim McGuinness in 2009.
A native of Kildress, County Tyrone, Corey is a nephew of former Donegal manager Brian McIver. He had a spell as joint-manager with McGuinness, before he assumed sole charge in 2010, when he led the club to the Donegal SFC title and they reached an Ulster final, where they lost to Crossmaglen.
Last winter, Corey was drawn to Glenties again. Full-time involvement wasn’t an option, but he dialled Regan’s number and offered the young budding manager a proposition.
Paddy Campbell’s reign was over and there was a vacancy.
“Cathal rang me after we went out of the Championship last year, asking me if I’d take it on,” Regan says now, as he prepares to lead his home club to their fifth Donegal SFC final.
“He said that he’d love to get involved and that he’d like me to be be there.
“I was carrying a few injuries myself – the back has been giving me a bit of trouble. I’d helped out a couple of teams in the club anyway so it was an easy enough decision.
“I have an interest in managing and I was with the Under-21s along with my father and Leo McLoone senior.”
Regan had been on the sideline for four of Naomh Conaill’s Under-21 success and two of their triumphs at minor level.
Now he stands bidding to succeed Hughie Molloy and Corey as the men who’ve led the blue and white brigade to SFC glory.
“It’s totally different,” Regan says.
“It’s an awfully long year and you have so much going on besides the football. You have the injuries to deal with and the players who aren’t around at home, whereas at underage level they’re all just a stone’s throw away.
“I have enjoyed it. If we weren’t sitting here in a county final, I’d probably say different. We always got on in Glenties. We’re a very close club and we’re all really good friends.”
Regan is just 31 years old. He was a sub in 2005 when Naomh Conaill defeated St Eunan’s in a replay to win Dr Maguire for the first time. He came on in the drawn encounter and he played midfield in 2010 when they overcame Killybegs to top the pile again.
“It’s different now in that I’m wearing a bib on the sideline, but it’s always been the way in Glenties where players have a big say in things too,” Regan says of his move into management.
“Johnny ‘Butcher’ (McLoone), for example, is a huge presence in the dressing room and always will be. He’s a great voice in there and it’s the same with the likes of Leo (McLoone); they’re all great lads and when they speak, their voice carries weight.
“The experience in there is massive. We still have a lot of survivors from 2005.”
The tide began to turn in 2003 when Naomh Conaill won their first Donegal Minor Division 1 Championship with a victory over Buncrana.
“Before then we didn’t win a whole pile,” Regan says.
“The thing just took off from that. We had a great group of players that came through at the one time, the likes of Leon and Anthony Thompson, Conal McNelis and these good players going into a team with John Gildea, Paddy Campbell and Jim McGuinness.
“From the 2005 senior final, the underage really took off and there was so much more interest in the club after that. We have been lucky with the crops of players that we’ve been bringing through.
“You need that one or two players every year coming through.”
The conveyor belt has been consistent in Glenties ever since. Regan points to his panel and the likes of JD Boyle and Ciaran Gallagher on the bench.
“These boys have really added to the training and have made it competitive,” he says.
For their semi-final against Kilcar, Regan landed a bombshell when he selected Eoghan McGettigan to start. Never before had McGettigan’s name been on a senior teamsheet, but he scored one goal and set up another two of the four Naomh Conaill goals.
“We weren’t too worried about Eoghan because we’ve seen how good a prospect he is,” Regan says.
“He has the right temperment and he’s a big game player.
“It was a huge gamble in a way, but we had Leo and Leon in beside him and you couldn’t ask for better men to help out a young lad making his debut. The way Eoghan has been going in training we weren’t worried about him.
“We knew he could do the job. The game that it was we felt he could get space inside and he did really well.”
It was an astute move by a man well versed in Naomh Conaill’s art.
Tomorrow, he gets his crack at a masterpiece.Tags: