Donegal Senior Football Championship final
Naomh Conaill v Gaoth Dobhair
Sunday, MacCumhaill Park, 4pm
The Naomh Conaill midfielder says this season is not about righting the wrongs of the past
When Naomh Conaill midfielder Ethan O’Donnell makes his way to MacCumhaill Park on Sunday for the Donegal county final he’ll make it with his family.
O’Donnell’s uncle and cousin are part of the back room team and he has a cousin on the squad as well.
That makes this weekend’s final extra special for the rangy midfielder.
“My family are massive supporters of the club. They travel to every game.
“There are four of us in our house who are involved so it is a special day.”
The are not the only family involved. Club football is very much a family affair in Donegal. In Naomh Conaill they also have the Thompson brothers. On the Gaoth Dobhair side there is the McGee’s and the O Baoill’s.
All that O’Donnell cares about is the excitement in the O’Donnell house on Sunday morning, and it won’t be far behind in the town of Glenties.
“All round town the bunting has gone up. It’s getting to that time of year. We are just happy to be there,” O’Donnell said.
“Football is a religion in Glenties. Everyone is wishing us luck.
“Every day that you get to a final is a good day.
“We are used to getting to the finals. We have been there two years in a row.”
Naomh Conaill’s course to the final saw them win all three of their group stage matches, against Killybegs, MacCumhaills and Dungloe. They pitched up against Glenfin in the quarter-final and won by four. In the semi-final they took on St Eunan’s and emerged victorious by 0-15 to 1-11.
“The semi-final was helter skelter,” O’Donnell said.
“I think we were favourites going into the game, but we don’t take any game lightly.
“Any time we play St Eunan’s it is never going to be easy. We expected nothing but a close game.
“They were hungry and we were under pressure. But after the goal went in we didn’t panic.”
Leading by four points at half time, they were stunned when St Eunan’s found the net through Eoin McGeehin. They were two up with ten minutes left, but as O’Donnell said, the 2015 champions didn’t panic and Eoin McGettigan’s 53rd minute score was the crucial one, as they pushed on to get the win.
“We never really panic. Even when we played Glenfin in the quarter-final, that was a close game, but we just kept our heads.
“They were two very good performances.”
Glenties are no strangers to the county final, having played three of the last four. Though their only win in that period was in 2015.
They were knocked out by Gaoth Dobhair in last year’s competition.
“The last two finals, we didn’t play to the best of our ability. We didn’t show ourselves in a good light.
“But this year is not about righting those wrongs. Our manager said that we didn’t do ourselves justice. We just want to go out this weekend and put in a performance.
“Whatever we do, those finals will still be there. There’s nothing that we can do about that.”
Their manager is Martin Regan. He took over the team in 2015, the year when they last won the county title.
O’Donnell has huge respect for the manager.
“Regan has been brilliant. And he has even added people to the back room team to freshen things up.”
The additions were Shay Murrin and Michael McLaughlin.
“They are not from the town. They have added a freshness. They have been top class.”
There have been changes to the squad.
There have been some players who have returned to the team.
The additions to the squad include corner forward Eoghan McGettigan, and Jeaic Mac Cealibhuí who were missing last year.
“I don’t know if it is a better panel, but it is definitely stronger,” O’Donnell said.
“We have our jokes on this team but when it comes down to the football we take it seriously.
“When we cross that white line we do have pride in our football. We have men there who have been playing for 16 years, who have a county medal from 2005. And we have players who have not played in the final.
“Having lost the last two finals, it would be sweet to win this one.”