Ciaran Thompson: Noamh Conall aiming to contain Gaoth Dobhair threat

Donegals Ciaran Thompson (right), with team-mate Ryan McHugh following up, in action against Cavan's Cian Mackey in the Ulster Senior Football Championship final at Clones on Sunday June 23 2019. Picture by Seamus Loughran.
Donegals Ciaran Thompson (right), with team-mate Ryan McHugh following up, in action against Cavan's Cian Mackey in the Ulster Senior Football Championship final at Clones on Sunday June 23 2019. Picture by Seamus Loughran.

Donegal Senior Club Football Championship Final

All week a big part of the pre-match county final narrative has focused quite a lot on the perceived hurt that Naomh Conaill are carrying after losing the last two county finals on the trot.

It is a narrative that does not find any real credence with their county star Ciaran Thompson.

And their manager Martin Regan pointed out presciently that his side had lost to two great teams in Kilcar and Gaoth Dobhair and there was certainly “no shame in that”.

When the question of hurt being a motivator is asked, Thompson does not concur: “Not really as this is a brand- new year, with different players and different ideas and we don’t think about other years.

“It is all about this year and hopefully getting our hands on the trophy”.

But they face a formidable opponent in Gaoth Dobhair, and Thompson is well aware of their county quality also, having soldiered with Neil McGee, Odhran MacNiallais, Daire O’Baoill, Odhran McFadden Ferry, Micheal Carroll and Cian Mulligan at various junctures over the past two years.

“Yes, they are not Ulster champions for nothing, and they are a formidable side,'' he stated.

“They are a brilliant team with a lot of big strengths.

“Odhran MacNiallais and Daire O’Baoill are top players and they have strengths all over the field and they really will be a tough opposition. It's going to be a hard task.”

Thompson added that the pace and youth of the opposition was also a factor: “They have huge pace in Daire, Naoise O’Baoill, Cian Mulligan and Micheal Carroll and they are all only 22/23 so they have bright futures and already have the experience of winning Donegal and Ulster titles.

“At the end of it they have quality finishers like Kevin Cassidy, Eamon Collum and a new lad called Ethan Harkin and Odhran MacNiallais can land long range points.''

But Glenties will not fear Gaoth Dobhair, having beaten them in the semi-final in 2017 where a very young Eoghan McGettigan got some vital scores for the winners who trailed for considerable periods of that match.

But, in response to those consecutive county final defeats there has been a bit of “forward planning” in Glenties.

“Yes, we are more of an attacking side,'' said Thompson.

“We felt we did not do ourselves justice in the last two finals, so we changed things up a bit with playing more on the front foot.

“And we have huge attacking options and it is about us expressing ourselves more and there are a lot of players who are willing to go that extra mile to get us to where we want to be.

“It is driving things on and there are a lot more avenues of attack than previously.

“And those two big men Charles McGuinness and Kieran Gallagher are driving things on.”

He added: “They are young at 21 and 22 and we have had a good core of players coming through which gives us a nice balance with the older more experienced boys some of whom already have three county medals and are hugely influential.

“We can vary our game and it gives you more opportunities.”

But it is real family affair for Ciaran as he is playing with his big brother Anthony Thompson who, like Leo McLoone, Dermot Molloy and Marty Boyle also have All-Ireland senior county medals from 2012.

And Ciaran’s other two brothers Leon and Aaron have senior championship medals and Leon is a former senior county player.

That kind of experience is priceless and will be vital against Gaoth Dobhair on Sunday.

“It is always nice to play with any of your family,'' added Thompson.

“Anthony owes the club nothing and has been there for so many years.

“It is a big privilege playing along with him.”

But equally an honour to be playing along with the great Leo McLoone: “a clubman to the core.”

“He is an inspirational leader for young and old alike and he is a brilliant leader over may years.

“Leo will never shy away from the big moments and we have plenty of players capable of that, so we are in a good place.”

But they also have an improved Eoghan McGettigan, who coolly slotted the winning free against St Eunan’s to add to their armoury.

“Eoghan is a fine player and he certainly does not lack in confidence as he has already showed when it mattered.'' he stated.

“Eoghan has improved a lot this year from being with the county squad and he has given it a real rattle and he is enjoying his time there.”

So what do Glenties need to do to beat Gaoth Dobhair?

“A lot of things need to go right for us and we need to limit their strengths,'' stressed Thompson.

“They have so many options and Kevin Cassidy is very potent inside and Odhran MacNiallais can kick points from 50 metres.

“It is about negating their threats and hoping we can get through.”

And Ciaran Thompson could play a big part in that journey...