Sligo defender who missed NY trip with final exams can't wait for Mayo

May 16, 2017

Aidan O'Shea of Mayo with Kevin McDonnell of Sligo

by John Fallon

Sligo full-back Kevin McDonnell didn't feature in the win over New York because he was studying for his final university exams but now the only test he is preparing for is a shock victory over Mayo on Sunday.

The 22-year old appreciates that they are the rank outsiders going to Castlebar trying to oust All-Ireland finalists Mayo, but knows that a win would be a huge boost for football in Sligo.

"It would be massive, that is what young guys need: something to aspire to, something to look up to, a big win like that would be massive for us.

"We are a bit starved of success at the minute, we need a big game to push things on, to get boys and young fellas interested in GAA in Sligo.

"We are looking forward to it, they are obviously one of the top two teams in the country. These are the games you want to be playing in, you want to aim to try yourself against the best. We are looking forward to that, to the challenge to just see how we get on," said the Castleconnor clubman.

His final physics exams at NUIG meant that he could only follow the progress of Sligo's 1-21 to 1-13 over New York on the radio, but with the studies now out of the way, McDonnell has his sights set firmly on a big Connacht championship upset.

He's heading into his fourth year of championship football, having been drafted in by Pat Flanagan in his Leaving Cert year, going on to play minor, U-21, junior and senior football that summer for Sligo in 2014.

And he says that the progress made by the likes of Summerhill and St Attracta's in colleges football, along with a strong county U-21 team this season, has led to a lot of optimism in the Yeats County, with manager Niall Carew not afraid to draft in young players.

"There is a lot of work going into underage. We have a new Centre of Excellence which helps, we can bring all the boys and teams together there and we have a good gym. Everything is looking better for Sligo.

"We have a good young squad at the minute, Niall is bringing in the younger boys so they are getting a taste of the action. We had four or five lads last year doing the Leaving Cert on the panel which was great for them, there is a youthful exuberance in the squad."

And yet, there are still five survivors from the Sligo side which won Connacht for only the third time ever in 2007, with Mark Breheny, Charlie Harrison, Ross Donovan, Brendan Egan and David Kelly providing plenty of experience.

"Those boys are invaluable to us. I'm still a young fella as well, they always come talking to you, put the arm around your shoulder if you have a bad game to tell you to pick it up. They are all very positive. It isn't like they are barking down at you," added McDonnell.

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