Youth leading the way at Donegal side Gaoth Dobhair

By Niall Gartland

GAOTH Dobhair have lost a batch of experienced players this season, some of whom are household names, but they haven’t skipped a beat thanks to the impact of talented young players who have already shown what they can do at underage level.

They’re managed by Rónán Mac Niallais, who steered the team to last year’s Senior Championship final in his first season in charge, but they lost out to the usual suspects, Naomh Conaill.

Remove Eamon McGee (retired), Neil McGee (on Donegal coaching duty), Michael Carroll (in London), Odhrán Mac Niallais and Cian Mulligan (both in Australia) from the equation and you’d think they should be struggling, but that hasn’t been the case.

If Gaoth Dobhair win – or even draw – their final Division One game in mid-July against Kilcar, they’ll book their spot in the league final, so things have been going swimmingly for the Gaeltacht club.

Manager Rónán Mac Niallais, brother of the aforementioned Odhrán, commented: “Last year myself and the rest of the management team came in late enough and we said we’d go after it and see where it takes us.

“We got to the county final and it was a real wake up call, especially in terms of strength and conditioning.

“We’ve lost a lot of experienced men so that’s difficult, but the youth coming through in Gaoth Dobhair is top notch.

“They’ve won a few u-21 titles in a row, they’ve experience of winning County titles at ‘A’ level in Donegal, and we’ve blooded a lot of them this year. The age profile is very young, I think we only have two boys over 30 years old. I know the big stuff is yet to come but we can only go by what we’ve seen so far and it’s been positive.”

Youngsters who are leading the way at Gaoth Dobhair include Stephen McFadden, Eoin de Burca, Aidan Breathnach, Cian McEntee and Fionnan Coyle. They’re gaining plenty of experience of senior football and all being well Gaoth Dobhair will have a Division One final in the pipeline.

“We’ve been playing league games since March and we’re happy with how it’s going., I know teams have been operating without their county players but every game is competitive, nobody wants to go down to Division Two.

“Teams want to win the league title for different reasons, some are rebuilding and want to win silverware, Naomh Conaill like to show everyone that they’re still top dogs. We’d have ideally liked to get a couple of league games with our county contingent back, but that’s not going to happen and we’ve a big enough squad that we can absorb that loss and stay in Division One.”

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