McGuinness relishing Glen litmus test

By Ryan Ferry

NAOMH Conaill full-forward Charlie McGuinness says his team will relish the challenge as they aim to dethrone the reigning Ulster champions Glen this Saturday.

The Maghera side won the Ulster title last season and went all the way to the All-Ireland Final where they lost in controversial circumstances against Kilmacud Crokes.

Glen cruised through the Derry Championship this year once again, and while Cargin posed a few questions of them in the provincial quarter-final, Malachy O’Rourke’s men never looked truly troubled.

Naomh Conaill weren’t convincing in their win over Gowna in the last round, but when you add that match to the victories over Glenswilly, Kilcar, St Eunan’s, and Gaoth Dobhair, there is a decent body of work completed this season already.

There’s a big prize at stake with a place in the Ulster Final up for grabs, but McGuinness is well aware that the bookmakers have made his side clear outsiders.

“We know we will be up against it. They are one of the best teams in Ireland.

“They went so close to winning the All-Ireland. They won’t say it but I’m sure it’s in the back of their heads that they want to get another crack at Kilmacud to try to right the wrongs of last season.

“We’re going to have to improve a lot. We didn’t play well against Gowna at all.

“We are going to have to be at our very best if we are even going to compete with Glen.

“We will relish the challenge and see where it takes us.”

Naomh Conaill were seconds away from seeing their season come to an end a fortnight ago.

However Anthony Thompson then lobbed a ball into the Gowna square. It wasn’t defended sufficiently and Kevin McGettigan found the net as McGuinness and his teammates won by a point.

“I don’t think I’ve ever been involved in a finish like that before.

“We probably have won games late on with a point maybe, but I don’t think we have ever done it with a goal like that.

“It was chaos really at the end of the match. It felt like the game was gone and everybody was up the field and it just fell for Kevin.

“It was surreal. Our supporters were running onto the pitch and I think everyone was really in shock that we had won it.”

Some people may feel there was good fortune in the fact that a defender scored the winning goal, but followers of the Donegal SFC will know that McGettigan regularly chips in with scores for his team.

Naomh Conaill are a fluid team, and the corner-backs are as likely to get opportunities as the corner-forwards.

“Kevin is very accurate to be fair to him.

“Most of our team are. That’s probably one of the big things we have going for us is that we are not dependent on any one player.

“I don’t think Ciaran (Thompson) even scored the last day which is unusual for him. You’d think you’d be doing well to win on a day when Ciaran doesn’t score.

“Kevin was in the right place and he took it very well.”

Naomh Conaill are a seasoned team at this stage, winning four of the last five Donegal championships, and they know what they are about.

McGuinness said: “I think the trilogy with Gaoth Dobhair in 2019 was really the making of this team.

“To play and prepare for three county finals like that was unbelievable and they were all very close games.

“It really brought a lot of the players on. It was my first year really, and you learned so much from it.

“We have experienced pretty much everything on the field now. We’ve been a point up and a point down, we have been a man down and a man up.

“We’re lucky that we have had a steady group there over the last few years.

“Ciaran Brennan and Kieran Gallagher have headed away but they are really the only two.

“Everyone else has stayed about and it’s easy to do that when you think you have the chance of success.

“Even now at this time of the year, it’s not hard to go down to the pitch for training when you know there’s a big game in Ulster coming up.”

Receive quality journalism wherever you are, on any device. Keep up to date from the comfort of your own home with a digital subscription.
Any time | Any place | Anywhere


Gaelic Life is published by North West of Ireland Printing & Publishing Company Limited, trading as North-West News Group.
Registered in Northern Ireland, No. R0000576. 10-14 John Street, Omagh, Co. Tyrone, N. Ireland, BT781DW