The Donegal Youth League aim to put one foot in the knock-out stages of the FAI Youth Inter-League competition with victory against neighbours Inishowen on Saturday afternoon.
Pat McLaughlin’s team opened their campaign with a useful 2-0 win over the Sligo-Leitrim youth League at McSharry Park in Sligo in November with Gavin McGlanaghy from Rosses Academy and Letterkenny Rovers’ Micheal Doherty on target.
This weekend’s fixture has been postponed twice already, with the weather meaning the meetings in December and early January had to be rescheduled. Donegal conclude their group games against Mayo next month at home. Thus far this term, Inishowen have lost to both Sligo/Leitrim and Mayo.
McLaughlin has a full-strength squad of 28 to choose 18 from on the day. The swollen numbers is intended as it will keep the group together ahead of the Mayo game, leaving him an option to alternate faces. Those numbers are a welcome relief for the Bonagee United clubman, who was missing as many as 10 players in Sligo on opening day.
“It’s good to have everyone fit as we have a strong squad, while at the same time there are a number of players involved now that will be here next year and I am a great believer in youth,” he said. “In Sligo we had players away and players injured, but still played pretty well that day to get the result and that got us off on the right foot. Inishowen have lost their two games to date but it’s a case of on the day really.
“The postponements have been frustration, of course, as it’s tough for a lad to train and then get a phonecall on a Friday night or a Saturday morning to tell them the game is off. So, we’re wanting to get back at it this weekend. We had a couple of good friendlies, going down to Fanad United 4-2 at Triaghalough and then beating Buncrana Hearts 3-2 at the Aura Centre so we have one more get-together on Thursday.”
Last season, Eunan Brolly’s talented looking squad started the campaign in impressive style, including a 3-2 win over Saturday’s opponents at An Sreaban in Gweedore when having to twice come from behind, goals from Josh Mailey, McGlanaghy and Darren McGeever sealed the points. But having beaten the West Waterford/East Cork Youth League in the quarter-finals 2-0, Donegal clattered back down to earth when they lost 4-0 to Wicklow in the semi-finals.
Donegal, who won the competition in 2003 against the Eircom League at Diamond Park in Ballyare when Anthony Gorman was in charge, have a decent record in recent years having reached the knock-out stages in each of the eight seasons.
This term, Donegal will be best served by the likes of Chris McLaughlin, Raymond Foy and Doherty from Letterkenny Rovers, Paul McVeigh from Fanad and striker McGlanaghy. Glaswegian McLaughlin, who is assisted by his brother Tom, Billy Gibson, Peter Patton and Tommy Harkin, is hoping to keep that record going.
“Donegal have done well in this in recent years and I don’t want to be the man who doesn’t get us through the group!,” the manager said. “But as I said we have a good group of players and if we can get a good result on Saturday in Buncrana then we can take it from there ahead of the game at home to Mayo on February 12.”
Squad: Thomas McLaughlin, Chris McLaughlin, Johnny Robb, Mark Ford, Calvin Bradley, Michael Doherty, Jordon Duffy, Raymond Foy (all Letterkenny Rovers), James Doyle, Ryan McCleary, Christopher Barrett, Tony McNamee and Barry McNamee (all Rathmullan Celtic), Christopher McGlynn, Dan O’Donnell, Gavin McGlanaghy, Michael McHugh, Martin Redmond (all Rosses Academy), Lee McMonagle, Sean Larkin, Mark Graham, Oisin Cannon (all Bonagee United), Stephen Rodden, Kevin McFadden (Gleanea United), Paul McViegh, Brian McVeigh, Chris Duffy, Micheal Cannon, Oisin Barrett (Fanad United), Ordhan McNiallais (Gweedore C).