Curbing Murphy's influence will be key for Naomh Conaill in Donegal SFC quarter-final clash

Michael Murphy has hit a good run of scoring form with Glenswilly as they head into a quarter-final clash with Naomh Conaill
Michael Murphy has hit a good run of scoring form with Glenswilly as they head into a quarter-final clash with Naomh Conaill

Michael Murphy Sports & Leisure Donegal SFC quarter-finals: Naomh Conaill v Glenswilly (tomorrow, O'Donnell Park, 2.30pm)

The clash of Naomh Conaill and Glenswilly is the stand- out fixture in this weekend's Donegal SFC quarter-Finals in O'Donnell Park on Sunday.

The last time these sides collided, the end result was a draw in a memorable shoot-out in Glenswilly.

The Glenties men will start as favourites for this eagerly awaited clash as they have a powerful experienced squad that has been in the last five county finals.

But, a certain Michael Murphy has been on fire in the group stages and his four forward marks and four points in his club's last match against Ardara could be an extra weapon in his formidable armoury.

No doubt Naomh Conaill will have firm plans made for this clear and present danger but that could involve using two or even three of their personnel.

And that will leave precious space for Murphy's colleagues to exploit.

Naomh Conaill were well tested in the group stage with four wins and a draw and finished on seven points while Glenswilly put aside the trauma of relegation to Division Two to make their way to the quarter-finals.

Naomh Conaill had wins over Killybegs, St Michael's and Gaoth Dobhair which sets them up well for the clash with Glenswilly.

They were not troubled at all by enigmatic Gaoth Dobhair in their final match and cruised to a five- point victory by 1-14 to 1-9m but Gaoth Dobhair had already qualified which puts that win in context somewhat.

Naomh Conaill have been the most consistent side in the county over the past decade and have a few warriors who are still around since 2005.

Seventeen years on, Leo McLoone, Brendan McDyer, Marty Boyle, Eoin Waide and Anthony Thompson are very much involved and that is a testament to their character and class.

But they can also call on the likes of inspirational captain Ciaran Thompson, Ethan O'Donnell, Charles McGuinness and Jeaic MacCeallbhui all of whom have county experience.

They have a bench that is equally if not stronger than that of St Eunan's and have been able to retain their players in challenging times.

Glenswilly do not have quite the same strength in depth as in previous years and rely pretty heavily on Murphy for inspiration.

But they also have the trusty left boot of Gary McFadden, the surging youthful power of Jack Gallagher and the towering presence of Caoimhin Marly and Shaun Wogan.

Oisin Crawford is a solid presence for the Glen while Shane McDaid is a potent operator up front.

They have a great championship pedigree and have bounced back from the shock of being relegated to Division Two by a youthful Killybegs side.

The last time Glenswilly were in the knock-out stage was in 2018 when they lost to Naomh Conaill in the semi-finals.

On Sunday they will bring all their renowned championship battling qualities.

But if Naomh Conaill can even slightly nullify Murphy, then they should advance to the last four.

Aodh Ruadh v Gaoth Dobhair (today, Eamonn Byrne Memorial Park, 3.30pm)

The steady rise of Aodh Ruadh has been of the stories of the Donegal championship so far. But today the Ballyshannon boys face their biggest test to date as they lock horns with mercurial Gaoth Dobhair in Fintra.

Ballyshannon are unbeaten, having overcome, Bundoran, Milford. Ardara and St Naul's but all of the above finished with zero points.

They have a new manager in John McNulty from Kilcar, who has got a strong response and they are fit and focused and are capable of causing a real upset.

Nathan Boyle, Peter Boyle, Eamon McGrath, Shane McGrath and Colm Kelly are all stellar figures. And veteran Darren Drummond remains an influential figure.

Gaoth Dobhair had tougher gigs including ties with Naomh Conaill. St MIchael's and Sean MacCumhaill's. But inconsistency has dogged them since that epic 2018 year when they took Donegal and Ulster SFC titles.

On paper they have one of the most powerful squads in the county and are more than a match for anyone-on their day.

Odhran MacNIaliais is gradually coming back to fitness, but they still have the likes of Daire Ó Baoill, Niall Friel, Ethan Harkin, Eamonn McGee and Cian Mulligan to boost their challenge.

Of all four ties, this one looks like being the most likely upset, but everything would need to go right for Aodh Ruadh so Gaoth Dobhair should edge through.

Killybegs v Kilcar (today, Tir Chonaill Park, 1pm)

Derbies are always different in this David and Goliath clash where reigning league champions Kilcar are the hottest of favourites in Tir Chonaill Park.

Kilcar have arguably the most potent forward line in the county with Patrick McBrearty, Stephen McBrearty, Conor Doherty and the raiding Ryan and Eoin McHugh all spelling danger.

At midfield. Ciaran McGinley is a powerful figure while the ultra versatile Mark McHugh is their orchestrator.

And, team captain Brian O'Donnell, who is not the tallest, seems to have solved the problems in the full back line.

Youthful Killybegs have been something of a revelation this season since they had a huge psychological win over Glenswilly to stay in Division One.

Hugh McFadden has become a huge threat for them on the edge of the square, doing 'a Michael Murphy' in alternating from the edge of the square to midfield.

Seamus Óg Byrne is back from injury and is a towering pacey presence at full-back while Eoghan Ban Gallagher, Evan Broderick, the free-running Jack McSharry and the deadly accurate Conor Cunningham will certainly test Kilcar's resolve.

They might stay with the favourites for the first half-but a Kilcar win looks inevitable.

St Eunan's v St Michael's (today, Davy Brennan Memorial Park, 5.30pm)

Ex Ardara and Donegal great Damian Diver reckons that St Eunan's, while not neglecting Donegal, will still have one eye on Ulster this year.

And there is a sense of unfinished business following the manner of their defeat to Glen of Maghera as they meet St Michael's in the Davy Memorial Park, Glenties, tomorrow.

Eunan's have cruised through the Group stages at a cool canter and are the hottest of favourites to retain the Dr Maguire Cup.

They have loads of power and panache with Conor (Snr), Niall and Shane O'Donnell key figures, but they also have the likes of Caolan Ward, Peter Devine and the accurate Eoin McGeehin to power their charge.

Opponents St Micahel's are the county's perennial nearly men.

They could have taken a county title in 2011 when Colm McFadden, Christy Toye and Martin McElhinney were in their prime, but they just lost out to Glenswilly.

They still have McElhinney and Michael Langan is their greatest single threat along with McFadden, Carlus O'Reilly and Raymond McLaughlin.

But the champions should advance with ease.