Champions face Kilcar as the title race gets real

By Michael McMullan

REIGNING champions Naomh Conaill have been handed a tough draw against Kilcar for this weekend’s quarter-finals.

With the draw not seeded, the top four teams from the group stages were drawn against each other.

Aodh Ruadh Ballyshannon, the only team to have won all four group games, are out against St Eunan’s.

Naomh Conaill are the recent kings of club football with four from the last eight titles, reaching three of the other four finals.

Kilcar were champions in 2017 and won the league last season.

They’ve Patrick McBrearty back on board after injury-ridden season and former Donegal player Mark McHugh has been deployed as the latest in a line of fly goalkeepers.

Both teams will have serious aspirations of getting their hands on the Dr Maguire Cup and it could take extra time, or even penalties, to decide this one.

Ballyshannon have not won the championship since 1998. They were also champions in 1994 and were awarded the 1997 title due to St Eunan’s having their title stripped after Leslie McGettigan had been found to have played in the New York Championship earlier in the season.

Rory Kavanagh steered St Eunan’s to the 2021 title and were close to toppling Naomh Conaill in last season’s decider. Come Sunday evening, two of the contenders will be gone.

Rónán Mac Niallais is in his first season in charge of Gaoth Dobhair, assisted by Francie Friel.

They welcomed Dáire Ó Baoill back for their preliminary quarter-final with Dungloe, a game they won with Eamon McGee’s late score.

Mac Niallais will be hoping Michael Carroll recovers from the injury sustained early in the game.

They’ll have to keep a lid on Karl Joseph Molloy who hit 1-8 against Cloughaneely.

The clash of Division Two champions Glenswilly and Sean MacCumhaill’s will be another game that can go either way.

Glenswilly outplayed Naomh Conaill for long periods in the championship last season before coming up short.

With Michael Murphy fully committed to the group, and available for a healthy chunk of league games, they bounce back from relegation.

Pauric Bonner will need to hatch a plan to curb the impact of Oisin Gallen, one of the top forwards in Ulster, if they want to make the step to the last four.

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