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Dublin: 5°C Saturday 27 February 2021

'I just need a break'- Donegal's MacNiallais to take time out from football after All-Ireland club exit

Odhrán MacNiallais and Gaoth Dobhair bowed out at the semi-final stage after defeat to Corofin.

A dejected MacNiallais after losing the All-Ireland club semi-final with Gaoth Dobhair at the weekend.
A dejected MacNiallais after losing the All-Ireland club semi-final with Gaoth Dobhair at the weekend.
Image: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

AT THE END of a most glorious odyssey for Gaoth Dobhair, the emotional and energy reserves are empty for Odhrán MacNiallais who has indicated he will take some time out of football.

It’s not clear if his Gaoth Dobhair clubmates will follow his lead, but several are expected to hook up with Declan Bonner’s county squad over the coming weeks.

Last Saturday’s defeat has punctuated an intensely painful period for the Gaoth Dobhair community, who lost a hugely popular clubman Micheál Roarty in the Donegal road accident back at the end of January.

“I’ll take a while out now anyway to see what happens. I will chat to Declan [Bonner] and the boys and see what their plans are,” MacNiallais said.

I will have a few weeks out. I am nearly two years now on the go and it is non-stop. I just need a break, especially after the last few weeks. It’s tough. I just need a bit of time out. There is a lot of pressure and I need to do a bit of relaxing.

“It’s been a long season. A couple of months leading up to this game and you are waiting and waiting on it to come and it just goes like that. So disappointing and you don’t know what to do with yourself.

“Football is going to be the last thing on my mind for the next few weeks anyway. Just relax for a few weeks now and see what happens. The appetite, I don’t think it’s going to be right for a few weeks especially after today.”

Gaoth Dobhair stand for a minutes silence Gaoth Dobhair stand for a minutes' silence before their semi-final against Corofin. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

A minutes’ silence for Roarty, along with his fellow passengers Daniel Scott, John Harley and Shaun Harkin was impeccably observed by the crowd in Carrick-on-Shannon and MacNiallais admitted it has been a terrible time for all.

It’s been heartbreaking really. It puts football to the back of your mind really for the last few weeks. It really shows you what is important in life and it’s your family, your friends. Football, yeah it gives you a lift and it is enjoyable and all…

“But at the end of the day, Micheál was a very, very close friend of mine and you never, ever expect something like that to happen. It’s just heartbreaking. For family and everyone close to him.

“I just don’t know how… Your heart goes out to them.”

He continued, “Football means a lot to everyone in that dressing room there. It is a massive part of our lives. It takes up most of our lives but at the end of the day it is not everything. You kind of take it all for granted and life for granted.

“Micheál was only 24 years of age and a great footballer. He would have been involved with this group too only he couldn’t give the commitment, he was too fond of the partying. That’s a real loss, whereas that today is just football.”

Gaoth Dobhair looked like they might catch the All-Ireland champions Corofin going down the stretch with three late consecutive points, but the physical nature of how Corofin push an aggressive high line wore them down.

“We wouldn’t be used to it in Ulster, teams pressing and going man for man on you,” explained MacNiallais.

“We are kind of used to teams dropping back into a defensive shape and that.

“They are kind of more pressing us out the middle of the park and once you are tackled there are two or three men around you. We are not really used to that in the north.”

Gaoth Dobhair won their first Donegal title since 2006 this year and became the first Donegal club to win a provincial title (St Joseph’s in 1975 were an amalgamation).

“A lot of people have been saying over the last few months that this bonus territory for us. In reality it is. It’s somewhere a club in Donegal have never been and our club. We have exceeded all expectations and had a great year and that’s the positive way to look at it,” said MacNiallais.

“It’s disappointing there today, but Corofin are the top team in Ireland over the last few years and they showed that today. To compete at that level there today, it’s only a lesson for us and we are going to learn from it.”

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