There was no shortage of drama and debate from the opening weekend of the 2018 Donegal Senior Football Championship.
You can recap the results and reports from the weekend by clicking here.
1. Kilcar cope for now – but for how long?
Kilcar came into their first defence of Dr Maguire in 24 years without two of their leading protagonists. Patrick McBrearty will play no part in the 2018 SFC having suffered a ruptured cruciate ligament during the Ulster final.
McHugh can be expected to return, however, and will give the champions a significant boost.
Kilcar managed to survive in Fintra, where they just had enough to overcome old rivals Killybges.
They got their fill of it, though.
There are few teams who could cope without McBrearty and McHugh. The latter will have a role to play, but without McBrearty – who had been one of the leading marksmen in Ireland at the time of his injury – Kilcar will be severely tested.
2. Red mist descends as Gaoth Dobhair throw a marker
An estimated 1,500 turned up to O’Donnell Park to see St Eunan’s v Gaoth Dobhair in what was one of the most eagerly anticipated first round games in some time – and they certainly left with plenty to chew on.
Gaoth Dobhair threw down a marker with a narrow 0-10 to 1-6 win that puts the pressure on St Eunan’s now to respond.
Even before this one began there we murmurings of squabbles in the warm-up. Word filtered into the stand that some had clashed as they left the training field and there was edge and energy in the Letterkenny air.
By the time Jimmy White was finished, his pencil was considerably shorter. Odhrán MacNiallais and Rory Carr were both given second yellow cards, while Sean Hensey and James Carroll saw red in the closing stages.
The red mist wasn’t just confined to O’Donnell Park: Ardara’s CJ Molloy and Brendan Boyle, as well as Glenswilly’s Brian Farrelly were sent off in Kentucky; Mick McLaughlin of Malin saw red in Donegal Town; and Sean O’Donnell was dismissed for Termon on Saturday evening.
3. Stage fright and goals haunt Milford’s big night
Milford have two campaigns of Division 1 football behind them now, but Saturday night represented a first Senior Championship game in 25 years at Moyle View Park. Many of those in action on Saturday weren’t born the last time Milford featured at senior level.
It was a big night for last year’s Intermediate champions, who finally got their crack.
Whether it was stage fright or otherwise, defeat to the just-promoted Sean MacCumhaills leaves Milford in a real battle to advance from the group. Perhaps it was a case of MacCumhaills’ greater Senior Championship experience paying dividends, but for Milford the concession of four goals was unforgivable at this level.
They will need to shake their heads clear. Next up: Kilcar. In Towney.
4. Burt’s hurling hangover in Bundoran
Burt were buoyant last week after reclaiming the Donegal SHC from Setanta’s grasp. Quarter-finalists in last year’s Senior Championship – for the first time since 1966 in fact – hurling returned to the top of the Hibernian Park agenda this year.
The likes of Ciaran Finn, Stephen Gillespie, Ciaran Dowds, Ronan McDermott, Joe Boyle and Enda McDermott al lined out on Sunday as Burt headed into the football championship.
Bundoran had little trouble, however, and it was always going to be difficult for Burt to get to the levels just eight days after hitting the high notes in a ferocious hurling final with Setanta.
5. Defeat for Glenswilly in Ardara – can they repeat 2016?
In an interview last week, Glenswilly defender Joe Gibbons pointed to his side’s poor record against Ardara.
The last time Glenswilly won Dr Maguire, in 2016, they lost their opening group game to Ardara.
Can they repeat the trick again this time?
It would surely be a greater feat now, if they could pull it off.
Mind you, they were on their way to a win in Kentucky on Sunday when Caoimhin Marley put them 0-10 to 1-16 ahead, only for Conor Classon’s goal to seal a dramatic win for Ardara.
6. ‘Big five’ ahead of the rest – and it’s unlikely to change
Outside of the big five – Kilcar, Naomh Conaill, St Eunan’s, Gaoth Dobhair and St Michael’s – can anyone mount a Championship challenge this year?
On the basis of the weekend, no, although that is to discount Glenswilly’s chances of putting a surge together for the knockout phase, when they can always prove formidable.
St Michael’s blew Termon apart for a 16-point win; there were barely five minutes gone when Naomh Conaill could have packed up against Dungloe; Killybegs was always going to be sticky for Kilcar, but they should have too much over the next couple of weeks; and the unfortunate situation for St Eunan’s, Gaoth Dobhair and Naomh Conaill is that one of them will be spectators in three weeks’ time.
By the time the quarter-finals roll around, only four of the five will be left standing.
They were the leading teams in the League – and it’s hard to see past it again in the Championship.
It seems as if a clear gap is developing between those sides and the others.Tags: