EDDIE Harkin wants St Michael’s to shake the tag of Donegal’s ‘nearly men’ – and is aiming for the Bridge men to head into the knockout phase of this year’s Championship unbeaten from the group.
Harkin (pictured above) takes the Creeslough-Dunfanaghy representatives to Tir Chonaill Park in Donegal town on Saturday night for a meeting with Four Masters (throw-in 7pm) on the back of a win over Cloughaneely.
Victory on Saturday would fire them into the last eight, but Harkin has challenged his men to take the top spot in Group 3.
Ultimately, though, the minds around Sheephaven Bay are pining for a slice of glory.
Sunday’s win over Glenswilly shot them to joint top of Division 1 in the All-County League alongside St Eunan’s, but Harkin makes it clear that the Championship is what they crave.
St Michael’s lost to St Eunan’s in a semi-final last year, while they also missed out to Eunan’s in a 2006 semi.
They reached the final in 2011, but a magical display by Michael Murphy broke their dreams and in 2012 this weekend’s opponents, Four Masters, defeated them in a replayed quarter-final.
“We’ve nearly done it a good few times, but that’s a tag that we want to shake off,” Harkin – who is back at the helm this year having had a previous spell in charge that included the 2011 final.
“We feel that we left Dr Maguire behind us before. The Championship is what we targeted this year. We said at the start that we’d get points on board in the League to keep us safe and then go for the Championship.
“I think this weekend is a must-win game for us. We’d hope to be going into the quarter-finals unbeaten.
“It’s been good so far and I’m enjoying it this year. We’ve had a good run of it. We scraped a win in Glenswilly on Sunday. It wasn’t the best performance although we got the win – but being at the top of the League doesn’t count for much come the Championship.”
Harkin has a full panel from which to select his team this weekend.
Martin McElhinney sat out Sunday’s game in Foxhall but is, according to his manger, ‘raring to go’ this weekend.
Harkin will hope that Colm McFadden can transfer his sumptuous county form into the club scene in the coming weeks, while the power and drive of McElhinney and Christy Toye give them a polished feel.
Four-time All-Star Karl Lacey is a major doubt for Four Masters, with the 2012 Football of the Year struggling with a medial ligament injury. Lacey hasn’t trained since Donegal’s All-Ireland quarter-final defeat to Mayo and is rated as extremely doubtful.
“We will give Karl up until the last minute to see if he’s ready – he’s so important to us,” selector Kieran Espey said.
Espey is, along with Rory O’Donnell and Charlie Martin, a selector on the backroom team of Ciaran McBride, who holds the reigns in Donegal town this year.
These are very much transitional times around Tir Chonaill Park.
Of those who lined out in the blue and white in 2014, Paul Durcan, Luke Keaney, Peadar Espey, Raymie McGroary, Conor McDaid, Jamie McCrea, Conor McMonagle, Conor Rooney, John Boyle and Brian Egan aren’t available to McBride, while Kevin McBrearty – who had been on the fringes of the Donegal senior panel at the outset of the year – has missed most of the year because of a quad injury.
Four Masters are locked in a relegation battle in the League, but a battling win over Glenfin – when Michael Doherty scored 2-9 in a 3-9 to 2-9 win at Pairc Tabhoige.
Doherty was sent off in a League defeat to Ardara at Pearse Memorial Park on Sunday, but will be available this weekend.
Espey said: “Since Ciaran has come in, we’ve been trying new systems and players in the League.
“We were in good shape fitness wise against Glenfin. We got off to a bad start that night, but we steadied the ship, we dug in and got a couple of quick goals.
“It’s been a League of ‘what ifs’ for us, but we have a lot of youngsters. We played nine under-21s against Ardara and had another two coming in as subs.
“There have been games we’d have won had we had a little more experience.
“We’ve had some good battles with St Michael’s – who have class all over the pitch – over the years, but they’re a team that we do play well against.”Tags: