LAST year’s beaten Intermediate Championship finalists Cloughaneely believe they have the ability to go one better this term and win that title.
Promotion to senior level is what they dearly want. The club already play in Division One, and they feel they are one of the top 12 teams in the county. They just need to win that title.
Michael Lynch is back in charge this year after last year’s positive run, and he wants to build on the good performances in 2020.
“We want to be back up playing senior. The only way to get there is to win the championship,” Lynch said.
“We are in Division One, so we are in the right place and we are knocking at the door. We are not at the standard of Gaoth Dobhair, or Kilcar or St Eunan’s or those teams, but there are 12 teams of the same standard. If you take away the top six we can compete with them.”
Last year’s performances certainly suggest that they are close to getting back up to senior.
“We had a good year last year. We had a regional league and we played Gaoth Dobhair and they gave us a wild hockeying. But we came back and we had a good championship. We lost in the final but we missed a lot of chances and Aodh Ruadh took their chances.
“That was the difference. That is two years in-a-row to lose in the championship. There are things we could change, but overall we were positive.”
There are some improvements that they would like to make.
“We would look to be a bit tighter defensively. There were a few games that we should have closed out when we were on top.”
John Fitzgerald is back and fit after breaking his collarbone in last year’s county final. He was the only major injury that they were carrying.
Leo Brine has returned from Australia and he should play some part this year. There will be some minors coming in.
Blake McGarvey played corner-forward for the Donegal u-17s last year, and so he will be one to watch in the seniors this season.
“We have had a fairly good minor team last year. They were playing in Division Two and they got to the final of the Division Two Championship (though the game wasn’t played).
“There are a couple of boys on that who might come up so we can try them out.”
There is plenty about being part of senior team that they can learn, and Lynch is keen that they will get some time to experience it.
“The pace and the time on the ball are the big things that they have to learn. The intensity and the pace is a step up. But in fairness, we had two minors who came up last year and they played away and got used to it right away.
“If you can introduce them gradually it is better than throwing them in.”
That duo is Sean Curran and Conor Coyle. Curran is wing half-back and Coyle is wing half-forward and both made an appearance for the Donegal u-20s last year.
Cian Dougan came up from minors as well and he impressed Lynch in how he adapted.
“Our team is young enough and it is good that there is competition for places. It is good that the lads know there are boys coming up.
“I am pleased with the size of the panel. We have a good group of lads. In saying that, you would always like to have more.
“But if we can treat them right and avoid injuries we would be happy.”
During lockdown, the Cloughaneely players have been working on their own.
They have strength and conditioning programmes, and running schedules, and are doing the work with whatever equipment they have available to them.
“There is not much else for them to do. A lot of them are at college and they would usually be enjoying themselves in normal circumstances.”