Feast of football in store as 17 teams seek glory

FALCARRAGH, Co Donegal is bracing itself for up to 15,000 visitors on what promises to be a fine weekend weather-wise, as well as in terms of football where 17 teams from Donegal, Galway, Mayo, Kerry, Cork, Antrim, Waterford, Dublin and London will contest the senior and junior competitions.

Host club Cloughaneely have already been handed a boost in that they have been given a bye into tomorrow evening’s semi-finals, where they will await the challenge of either reigning champions Belmullet from Mayo or Naomh Abân from Cork.

Fears that Naomh Abán and An Ghealtacht from Kerry would not be making the long trek to Falcarragh have been allayed.

Cloughaneely club secretary Eibhlín Ní Chuireain last night insisted she had heard nothing to suggest they would not be arriving and the schedule of the event would go ahead as planned.

“They are on their way up and that’s all that I’ve heard,” she said.

“As far as I am concerned nobody has pulled out. I was speaking to people from both Cork and Kerry this week about accommodation for players’ partners and different things and there was no mention whatsoever about either team not travelling up.”

The preliminary round winners of An Ghaeltacht and An Rinn from Waterford will take on Mayo side Achill in the last eight.

Whoever comes through that particular triangle will have Galway’s Moycullen or Glenswilly from Donegal in the last four.

Twelve months ago, Belmullet had a double reason for celebration when they entertained then All-Ireland champions Ardara.

As well as opening their new €1.8m complex overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, they defeated the Donegal outfit 0-10 to 0-9 with Billy Joe Padden and Chris Barrett pulling the strings to win their fourth national title.

Cloughaneely are playing host to the event for the second time since 1998, when their search for a third title, having been victorious in 1992 and 1993, was ended by neighbours Ardara.

In fact, it was another Donegal club, Cloughaneely’s neighbours Gweedore, who were the first hosts and first winners of the competition back in 1969.

The junior competition was introduced six years later and this year that will provide an interesting cameo.

Galway’s Spiddal won the junior championship last year in Mayo and an all-Donegal tie between Cloughaneely’s second string and Naomh Mhuire from Annagry was the curtain-raiser last night, with a meeting with Meath’s Clán na nGael the prize for the winners.

The other last eight encounters fixed for this afternoon sees Na Gaeil Óga from Dublin face Móin Dearg of London, Antrim’s Laochra Loch Laoi lock horns with An Seanphobal from Waterford and Galway representatives An Fhairche cross swords with Connacht rivals Baile an Chaisil from Mayo.

The respective junior and senior finals will be held at Cloughaneely’s Pairc Naomh Fionain on Bank Holiday Monday at 2pm and 4pm respectively.

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