Cuchullains Prepare for Ulster Series

Ulster Club Intermediate Football Championship

Dunloy v Dungloe (Donegal)

Date: Saturday 12 November 2022

Venue: Ahoghill

Throw in: 1:30pm

Brendan McTaggart speaks with Dunloy manager Anthony McQuillan ahead of the Cuchullains Ulster Championship quarter final against Donegal champions Dungloe

Saturday will mark five weeks since Dunloy defeated Con Magees in the Intermediate championship final and their reward is a trip into the Ulster trail and a quarter final pairing with Donegal champions, Dungloe.

Conal Cunning’s scoring power has been a big boost to Dunloy this season

Having stepped down from the senior championship two years ago, Dungloe saw off the demons of last year’s final defeat after a reply to see off Naomh Columbs in the Tir Chonail final.  They will start as favourites for Saturday’s quarter-final but Dunloy manager Anthony McQuillan has belief in his own squad that they can cause an upset: “We’ve always had good teams over the years but I can’t remember ever having a bench with so many game changers on it and that’s what we have now” he told us when we caught up with him.  One such game changer who would have been in the starting 15 is Deaglan Smith.  The dual star damaged his ankle in the hurling championship semi final win against St John’s and it looks like Saturday’s game will come too soon for him but McQuillan told us that picking his 15 for Saturday is an incredibly difficult task.

With playing at provincial level on both codes, it brings its own set of difficulties but McQuillan told us its business as usual at Pearse Park: “Football only lads got 10 days off after our final and the dual players got the same after the hurling final. 

“The lads had put in a monumental shift for the better part of 10 weeks or more.  Every match they were out fighting like dogs for our club.  Non-dual clubs were playing every fortnight, these lads were playing every week and it’s not just the game time.  There’s the preparation that goes into playing in championship matches, getting into the right frame of mind to play a different code, a different opposition.  It was tough going and the lads definitely needed that time away.”

With the dual commitments and the numbers of dual players involved, McQuillan and his management team welcomed the five week break but has told us that he also sees the negative side of it: “That is our biggest fear (loss of momentum).  Ideally and from a selfish point of view, I’d have liked this game three weeks after the county final but look, we’re looking at the positive nature of this.  It’s another two weeks where we can prepare for this game and another two weeks where any niggles that might be lingering can be cleared up.”  The Dunloy manager continued by telling us how they have managed their dual players: “We have split up the week and make sure that our dual players have no more than two grass sessions a week.  One hurling and one football but in the run up to this game, we’ve had everyone together for the past week.”

Notorious for playing a more attacking brand of football and utilising their main assets in the forward line, McQuillan told us they don’t plan to change too much for Saturday’s game: “We’ve trained and worked hard all year to develop how we play and it would be madness to change that now.  We met together last night (Thursday) to try and get our match ups sorted but to be honest, we don’t know much about Dungloe.  We’ve read some match reports from their championship and have an idea on who their main threats will be but our game plan won’t deviate too much from what you seen in the Antrim championship.”

A ‘home’ venue was a welcome sight for the Cuchullains.  A 20 minute journey to Fr McGuigan Park, Ahoghill and a ground where the vast majority of the squad have fond memories of playing.  McQuillan added: “Playing in Ahoghill is a massive positive for us.  I think it’s something like a two and a half hour drive from Dungloe whereas it’s only 20 minutes down the road from us in a ground that we know and have played plenty on.

“The lads are looking forward to the challenge that Dungloe will bring.”

The last time Dunloy reached the provincial stage at this grade, they reached the decider only to come up short against a talented Ballinagh side.  On that journey, they defeated Kinawley of Fermanagh and Newbridge of Derry in the semi final before coming up short against the Cavan champions.  The Cuchullains will be hoping for a similar Odyssey into Ulster in 2022.

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