KILCAR are the shortest odds when it comes to bookmakers’ predictions in regards progression from Group 4 of the RTE Raidio na Gaeltachta SFC.
Therefore, even outside the propensity of someone upsetting the Towney outfit, there’s a window of opportunity for Naomh Muire, Termon and Killybegs.
At the Banks on Saturday (throw-in 7pm) the meeting of Naomh Muire and Termon will go a long way to deciding the group’s dynamic at its conclusion.
An away win for Paddy McDaid’s side will mean Termon will have nine toes in the quarter-finals, while if Gary Boyle’s hosts can come out on top, they will have every reason to fancy themselves as they welcome Killybegs the weekend after next.
Naomh Muire were staring into the abyss in their opening fixture at Kilcar in May. Trailing 2-8 to 0-1 at half-time they was something of an improvement after the break although Michael Molloy’s team still ran in as 2-11 to 0-8 winners.
“Kilcar were excellent,” Boyle said this week. “But after a poor first half we stuck at it. We still lost but there was a fight in the team and that was good to see. With the way the championship is this year, with the first fixture being in May and then nothing until August, we basically broke things into two phases.
“This group is likely to be very tight. There’s a chance there for Termon, Killybegs and ourselves.”
After an encouraging start in the All-County Football League Division 2, winning 2-7 to 0-12 against Bundoran, Naomh Muire picked up only one point from the next four games. In that run, they lost 2-8 to 0-11 at home to Termon.
However, with a young panel, things soon began to embed and the form has certainly improved. Last Sunday’s 3-12 to 2-11 win over Gaeil Fhanáda means Naomh Muire are in fourth place in the standings, only a point off second.
“Having won the Intermediate in 2013 and played in the Senior Championship last year, we’re still in transition and have a very young panel,” Boyle added. “The average age is 21. Players like Jack O’Brien, Patrick Gillespie, Sean Burns, Jamie Boyle, Darren Sweeney and James Ferry have all really boosted things here.”
Sean and Paul Yank Boyle and Adi O’Gara (pictured above) are by now means veterans but have built up a healthy experience at both county and club level.
“Sean Gallagher is our only real injury doubt,” Boyle said. “He’s had a back injury for the last month or so and we will play it by ear. Beside that we hope to have a fully fit panel to choose from.”
Termon are the current leaders in Division 2 and would’ve been surprised to learn last Sunday that their 1-7 to 1-7 draw at Naomh Columba was enough to stretch their lead at the top of the table, with Bundoran and Cloughaneely both losing.
Boss McDaid has seen his side, who reached the quarter-finals last season at the expense of Killybegs and Gaoth Dobhair, prosper despite a number of obstacles in recent weeks.
First choice goalkeeper Michael Boyle is lining out this summer for Donegal Boston, while his deputy Conor Tinney is also in the States – in his case in Washington. Aidan Sweeney is in New York.
Noel O’Donnell, who is the centre-half for the Republic of Ireland deaf team and the 2013 deaf footballer of the year, will keep goal on Sunday at Mullaghderg.
Termon will also be without Caolan McDaid, Donegal’s minor forward, who was in hospital recently with a virus but has since been discharged and is on the road to recovery.
“Michael Boyle is a huge loss,” manager McDaid said. “He’s a massive influence both on and off the pitch. But we’ll keep going. We’ve a few away but at the time are only planning with what we have and anyone else the might come in is a bonus.”
Termon defeated Killybegs in the first encounter 1-11 to 0-12 to given themselves a foothold in the group. Their good league form continued into the championship at a time of change at Burn Road.
“Players like Nathan McElwaine, Fintan O’Flynn and Caolan Mellett have come in from the minors and from the reserves and it’s been a bit of the changing of the guards with my own brother Sean having suffered a cruciate, Shaun O’Donnell in London and the Alcorns – bar Trevor – also away.
“In many respects, relegation last year wasn’t the worst thing that ever happened to us and in Division 2 there’s a little more scope to step back and try and develop. The young lads have made a quick transition.”