The probable absence of Sean Hume is a blow to St Eunan’s ahead of their Paddy McLarnon Ulster U-21 Football Tournament quarter-final on Saturday, throw-in 1:30pm.
With Down champions St Peter’s Warrenpoint waiting in the wings at the host club - Kickhams Creggan GAC from Randalstown, Co Antrim - St Eunan’s will wait on their top-scorer, who had long-standing plans to travel to London for the weekend.
Hume has kicked 4-24 (0-17 from placed balls) in four U-21 championship outings.
“Sean made plans to go away before Christmas and we don’t really want to be putting pressure on him to stay,” said St Eunan’s manager Noel Keaveney.
“It would be a huge blow as he’s our main free-taker but he has to have a life as well. We’ll leave it up to him.”
Hume was in imperious form in the County U-21 final when St Eunan’s toppled favourites Kilcar in a dramatic contest in Convoy last month.
The Letterkenny side, who are captained by Lee McMonagle, trailed by seven points with just eight minutes left but won 3-12 to 1-15 thanks to an injury-time goal from Hume, who totted up 2-6 on the day.
“It was a great game,” Keaveney said of the victory over Rory Gallagher and John McNulty’s team.
“It really could’ve gone either way and we’re just delighted we took the chance. The lads deserve great credit for not throwing in the towel and fighting till the end.
St Eunan’s opened their U-21 campaign with a 3-16 to 0-3 win over Naomh Muire and then defeated Aodh Ruadh 0-12 to 1-6 in the last eight.
In the county semi-final they were 0-15 to 1-6 winners against Clouganeely.
Conor Parke made his inter-county debut for Donegal in their 1-16 to 0-8 loss at Derry’s hands in Owenbeg on Sunday in the Dr McKenna Cup.
Donegal are back in action on Sunday against Queen’s University, Belfast, in their second outing of the New Year.
Conor Morrison and Odhran McGinley were part of Maxi Curran’s senior panel that won the RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta SFC in November but both have had ‘flu this week.
Sean Daffan, Parke, Darragh Mulgew, Rory Carr, Conall O’Boyle, Michael Miller and David Tyrell all were part of the Dr Maguire winning panel.
There’s also a fresh sprinkling from the St Eunan’s panel who lifted the Senior Reserve Championship.
In the Down U-21 final, St Peter’s defeated Burren by 4-7 to 2-8 at Pairc Esler in early December.
St Peter’s are a formidable side with their senior team having won the Ulster Intermediate championship only last month following a 1-14 to 1-7 win over Inniskeen Grattans from Monaghan in the final at the Athletic Grounds.
In the semi-final, St Peter’s got the better of Cloughaneely on a 2-16 to 1-8 scoreline.
It was because of their preparations for the upcoming All-Ireland IFC semi-final in Portlaoise on Sunday, January 25, against Munster champions Ardfelt from Kerry, the St Eunan’s fixture was brought forward.
“It was never really going to suit everyone but we’re in action on Saturday and happy enough with that,” Keaveney added.
“It can be hard to get everyone together as there’s county managers and county U-21 managers looking for players and there’s club U-21 and MacRory Cup.
“Warrenpoint are a fine team and one who will be in good shape and training as a group but we’ve had to beat good teams before and we’ll be giving it our all on Saturday.”
St Eunan’s panel: Sean Daffan, Aidan Simmons, Colm Flood, John Foley, Conor Morrison, Dara McMonagle, Conor Parke, Jordan McBride, Conor O’Donnell, Darragh Mulgrew, Oisin Carr, Lee McMonagle, Jordan O’Dowd, Rory Carr, Sean Hume, Barry McGeehin, Conor McEniff, Odhran McGinley, Conall O’Boyle, Michael Miller, Kevin Meehan, Mark Forde, David Tyrell, Darragh McWalters, Ronan Dorrian, Peter O’Malley, Michael Roache, Daniel Gillespie, Conor Harley.
Paddy McLarnon Ulster U-21 Tournament quarter-finals - Saturday, January 10, 1:30pm
St. Eunan’s (Donegal) v Warrenpoint (Down)
Sunday, January 18, 2pm
St Patrick’s Cullyhanna (Armagh) v St Joseph’s (Cavan)
Saturday, January 24, 2pm
St John’s (Antrim) v St. Endas Omagh (Tyrone).
Sunday, January 25, 2pm
Scotstown (Monaghan) v Watty Grahams Maghera (Derry)