Micheál Carroll, the Donegal captain, is one of the survivors from last year’s run to a first historic All-Ireland minor final.
One of six survivors from the 2015 panel that lost to Kerry in the All-Ireland final, the Gaoth Dobhair stylist is looking forward to another good year in 2015. But he is also wary of Sunday’s preliminary round opponents, Tyrone.
There are no prizes for second best against the Red Hands and there are no second chances in the early rounds of the minor championship. That is a luxury only afforded to the beaten Ulster minor finalists.
“We had a great year last year and we are hoping to have another good one this year. But we are playing Tyrone,on Sunday and that will be a tight old battle,” says Micheál.
“You don’t get much easy against Tyrone at any level. We are well prepared and working hard for it and hopefully we will have another good year but we are not looking past next Sunday.”
Carroll has lifted silverware already this season as Donegal swept to a second successive Ulster Minor League title.
“We won the league well, but that is parked up now and winning the league for a second year in-a-row will count for nothing if we don’t do well in the championship.
“The league went well for us and we had a number of good performances and big wins. The management tried out a number of different things and they brought in a number of new lads into the team.”
Among those new players are Carroll’s midfield partner Nathan Gavigan, wing backs the O’Baoill cousins from Gaoth Dobhair, Naoise and Dara St Naul’s Brendan McCole, Michael Langan, St Michael’s; Niall O’Donnell, St Eunan’s and Kane Barrett, Milford.
These players have blended in well with the six survivors - Micheál Carroll, Danny Rodgers, Stephen McMenamin, Gary McFadden, Ethan O’Donnell, Conor Doherty - from the side that lost 0-17 to 0-10 to Kerry in last September’s All-Ireland Minor final.
“The big difference from last year is that this is a relatively new team. The bulk of last year’s squad had been together for a number of years. But this year there are a lot of new lads that have come into the squad and it is a different team.
“But Declan (Bonner) and the management team have done a fantastic job and have blended us into a tight unit who play for one another and the good of the team all the time.”
Donegal gave Tyrone something of a trimming when they met earlier in the Ulster Minor Football League. Donegal won that game,played in Strabane 1-16 to 0-7.
“We are not reading too much into the league meeting. Fair enough it was in Tyrone and it was a good win but we were missing a few boys and they were missing five or six players that would be in and around their starting team.
“It will be a completely different game this time around. It will be in front of a big crowd but it is a matter of taking the positives and the negatives from the league and improving on them for next Sunday.
“Those of us that were there last year have learned that it is a matter of keeping the head down and working hard in the build up to every game. That has been the approach all year for the league or for challenge games and it will be the same for championship.”
In his last year as a minor, the Donegal skipper is looking at every game in the 2015 championship as important.
“Last year you would have had it in the back of your head that you always have next year. But this year is different because for a number of us it is our last year as minors.
“There is no second chances in the minor championship unless you get to the Ulster final; we are unfortunate too that we are on the tough side of the draw. If we are going to do it this year it is going to be done through hard graft. All we have to do now is go out and perform.”