ULSTER HURLING: Na Magha take on MacCumhails in Ulster Quarter-final
Na Magha's Breandan Quigley believes the Derry City side have a realistic chance of winning the Ulster Junior title if they can overcome the challenge of Donegal champions MacCumhaill's in Celtic Park on Sunday (2.30pm).
The Ballyarnett based side have not played since a heavy Derry Senior Championship defeat to Kevin Lynch’s in August, a result which Quigley says did not unduly worry the Ballyarnett men who always had their eyes on Ulster.
“Realistically, we were never going to win the Derry senior title at this stage so were not too disappointed by the game,” revealed Quigley.
“We were disappointed by the result but there were extenuating circumstances given the injuries we had that day and it is good for the young players to get out and see what it is like to compete against a team such as Kevin Lynch’s.
“Our championship focus has always been Ulster and this competition is certainly one we are capable of winning but MacCumhaill’s will be thinking the same thing.
“Some people may have been surprised to see them win Donegal but our boys were expecting them to defeat Burt. We have played them a few times and they are a good side. They have beaten us and we have beaten them in recent years so Sunday will come down to whoever wants it most on the day.”
Na Magha will be without corner-forward Conor O’Rourke for the game but otherwise should be at full strength after their enforced period of inactivity yielded unexpected benefits.
“We had picked up a few injuries but the fact we haven’t played in a few weeks means most have cleared up. There is no danger of under-estimating MacCumhaills. They have ambitions of their own and won’t be worried about coming to Celtic Park, it will suit them.
“We have to be ready. It should be a good game.”
The city side will look to the likes of Quigley, Alan Grant, Brendan Douban and Deaglan Foley against MacCumhaills men who were crowned Donegal champions for only the second time in their history after defeating Burt 2-13 to 2-9 three weeks ago.
In the aftermath of that victory, MacCumhaill’s manager, Eamonn McAuley, said his team was good enough to challenge on the All-Ireland stage.
“Every year, the players are getting that bit more experience,” explained McAuley.
“We’ve got good players and the young players who have come through are getting more and more experience of playing in big games.
“This is another big game on Sunday and we’re looking forward to it.”
The MacCumhaill’s team is unlikely to show too many changes from the one that defeated Burt although Aaron McAuley was this week struggling to shake off a chest infection, and due to work commitments, Ciaran Matthewson, may not be included in the starting 15.
Midfielder Lee Henderson will be the main danger to Na Magha after scoring 0-10 in the county final, eight of which came from frees with two from ‘65s’, highlighting the danger of conceding any frees within range.
Front men Gerard Gilmore, Sean Curran and Aaron McAuley also impressed and will have to be watched by Na Magha in a game which may be closer than many expect.