Donegal put their Ulster U-21 football crown on the line once again tomorrow night (Wednesday) when they face Cavan in Brewster Park, Enniskillen. (Throw-in at 8 pm).
In what is a repeat of last year’s final, won 2-8 to 0-7 by Donegal, Tir Chonaill boss Jim McGuinness will be looking for a much improved performance from last Wednesday night’s low scoring 0-8 to 0-5 first round victory over Antrim in Ballybofey.
“We need a big improvement from the Antrim game, that’s for sure. We showed a lot of nerves and were very lethargic and we will be looking for a big improvement in performance,” McGuinness said.
“Hopefully, we sill see a different Donegal on Wednesday night against Cavan. We will need to improve in every sector from the Antrim game if we are to be in with a chance against a Cavan side that have eight to nine of last year’s team available to them.”
After a poor first half against Antrim last week, Donegal did up their game in the second half thanks in no small way to the drive and efforts of senior players Daniel McLaughlin, Thomas McKinley and Mark McHugh.
And in the end through the promptings of Mssrs McLaughlin, McKinley and McHugh and good second half displays from Odhran McNiallais and substitute Peter McNelis they staggered to a narrow three-point win in a game that Antrim were probably never going to win.
Along with the aforementioned, other senior players such as Dermot Molloy, Conor Classon, Antoin McFadden and Eamonn Doherty are going to have to step up to the mark in a big way if Donegal are to harbour any notions of advancing to second final in a row.
The pressure, in particular, is on Molloy, who has taken on the role of filling Michael Murphy’s shoes up front as the main target man, while Classon will be expected to deliver around midfield.
Donegal were without Danny Curran, a first choice defender right through last year’s Ulster winning campaign, with a groin injury, while Nathan Mullins, who started in the attack, picked up an injury against Antrim.
Both are rated extremely doubtful and McGuinness will not make a final call on their fitness until tomorrow evening. County minor and member of the All-Ireland Vocational Schools team Patrick McBrearty is also thought to be in the running for one of the corner forward berths.
McBrearty and substitute goalkeeper Christopher McGlynn were away with the Vocational Schools’ panel in Galway last week but both are back on board for tomorrow night’s showdown.
Cavan, who are also managed by the senior management team of Val Andrews and Terry Hyland, go into the game on the back of a 1-13 to 1-7 victory Fermanagh in Brewster Park last week.
Andrews and Sheridan, who has been involved with the U-21s for a number of years, have nine of last year’s starting 15 available to them and are gunning for revenge. In the other semi-final, Monaghan await the winners of the Down and Tyrone quarter-final, which was drawn last Wednesday and will be replayed tomorrow.
Meanwhile, Donegal’s senior footballers enjoyed an fine 2-18 to 2-12 win at Celtic Park in Derry to move to the top of Division Two of the National Football League.