Donegal begin the defence of their Ulster Vocational Intercounty Schools’ crown this afternoon (Thursday), when they host Tyrone in Convoy. (Throw-in 1pm)
Donegal, the champions for the last three years, are once again managed by Seosamh McKelvey, who is facing into this third campaign as Donegal manager.
While Donegal are the champions, this is a new look Donegal squad with David McCarron, Rosses Community School and Leigh O’Brien, PCC Falcarragh the only survivors from last years starting fifteen.
This year’s side is backboned by Abbey Vocational School’s Dillon Ward and Darach O’Connor (last year’s county minor captain and a member of Jim McGuinness’s Donegal senior squad), John Campbell and Caolan McGonagle, also on last year’s county minor team.
Donegal have warmed up for this afternoon’s opener with challenge games against a Donegal minor selection, Colaisti Inis Eoghain and St. Eunan’s College.
“The challenge games were a mixed bag really. We were beaten by the minors and Colaisti Inis Eoghain and we had a good win over St Eunan;s,” said Seosamh McKelvey.
“We used them more or less as trial games and they were all good workouts and we would have learned a good deal from all three games.”
The Donegal boss is reasonably happy with his side’s preparations and feels his side is well equipped to begin their title defence.
“It is difficult to get the boys together on a regular basis due to schools and club competitions. Take Darach O’Connor, for example; because of his involvement with Colaisti Inis Eoghain and the Donegal U-21s and seniors, we haven’t seen him at all this season. He has also been out with injury too.
“We do hope to have him for the game as he is committed to playing with us when he can. A number of the other lads, too, have been tied up with Colaisti Inis Eoghan and club games.”
With the championship no longer played at All-Ireland level the focus is solely on the Ulster Championship.
This year’s championship is made up of five counties - Donegal, Tyrone, Down, Monaghan and Cavan. Monagan played Down yesterday in the other first round game.
The winners of this tie will play Cavan in the semi-final while the winners of this afternoon’s game will go straight into the final.
With St Ciaran’s, Ballygawley and Holy Trinity, Cookstown, opting to play in Ulster Colleges,Tyrone are not expected to be as strong as in previous years.