Donegal U-17 footballers finished top of the pile in Ulster after winning the Jim McGuigan Cup in the finals at the weekend in Maghera.
Declan Bonner’s charges had a facile win over Monaghan in the semi-final before taking the scalp of Tyrone in the final on a 2-10 to 1-6 scoreline.
Captained by Niall Harley of Aodh Ruadh, the team that defeated Tyrone in the final was:
Paddy Byrne; Danny Monaghan, Colin O’Boyle, Colm Kelly; Cian Mulligan (0-1), John McDyre, David Tyrell; Ciaran Gillespie, Niall Harley; Christian Bonner, Jamie Brennan, Michael Millar (0-1); Lorcan Connor (0-3), Niall Friel, Owen Ban Gallagher (1-0). Subs., Ryan Gillespie, Gavin McBride (0-1), Ciaran Diver 91-0), John Campbell (0-4), Odhran Melly, Ciaran McGinley.
“It was an important victory for this squad who have been working away over the past year or so,” said manager, Declan Bonner, who had most of the squad at U-16 level last year.
“This is an important age group with many of the players in the past being left behind. They are in a better place now but there is still a lot of work to be done,” he said.
Bonner acknowledged that both Monaghan and Tyrone were short some of the better players because of their involvement in the All-Ireland minor semi-finals.
“Monaghan were short seven or eight and that game was of no use, being a total whitewash. Tyrone were short four or five and they will be a fairly potent force again next year, he said.
The manager is already planning for next year and hopes to have a panel of around 30 working away over the winter.
“We would be starting at this stage with a strength and conditioning programme for about 30 lads who will be working away. We would be fairly sure of about 80% of the squad,” said Declan, who added that they were always checking out players and there would be a great opportunity this weekend with the Division 1 and 2 Minor Championship finals.
“There will be up to 12 players involved in those finals with around five in the Division 2 final and seven in the Division 1 final. We also have four or five players on the radar which we will keep checking,” said Bonner.
This bunch of lads have been very good to work with. We have had them now for two seasons and they have given everything that we have asked of them.
“However, we are fully aware that Donegal’s record at minor championship level in Ulster in recent times had been very poor,” said Bonner, who will take charge of the minors next year.
After Donegal won the Buncrana Cup (U-16s) recently and now have added the Ulster U-17 title (McGuigan Cup) the signs are good. However, Donegal have been successful at this stage before but have found it extremely difficult to make the breakthrough at minor level.
Then again, Donegal minors defeated Mayo twice in 2013, and the Mayo minors are in the All-Ireland final after beating Monaghan on Sunday last!