Donegal minors looking for semi-final place

The Donegal minors, under manager Stephen Friel, make the trip to Healy Park, Omagh, this evening with a place in the Ulster Minor Championship semi-final on offer (throw-in 7 p.m.)

The Donegal minors, under manager Stephen Friel, make the trip to Healy Park, Omagh, this evening with a place in the Ulster Minor Championship semi-final on offer (throw-in 7 p.m.)

Derry provide the opposition with the game being brought forward to allow players prepare and sit the Leaving Cert examinations without hindrance.

After their impressive display against Cavan on Sunday last, when they went to Kingspan Breffni Park and put on their best performance of the year so far, hopes are raised that Donegal can put one over on the Oak Leaf boys, who traditionally are one of the powerhouses at minor level in the province.

Donegal’s recent record at minor level in Ulster makes poor reading, but every few years hopes are raised. The last Ulster minor success came in 2006 when Michael Murphy was one of the leading lights along with Leo McLoone and the likes of Martin McElhinney and Declan Walsh, who made his senior championship debut on Sunday last.

That is why the minor championship is so important in all counties. It is the springboard to future success at senior level and although there can be a significant drop-out rate from minor to senior, success at underage level can help in keeping more players on board.

The present Donegal minor side had not set the world alight before Sunday last, although it must be said that they are probably one of the best prepared minor sides to leave the county in a long time.

Manager Stephen Friel - himself a Derry man - has surrounded himself with a group of mentors which have left no stone unturned in getting the side ready for the championship.

As he said this week, everything was geared for Cavan on Sunday last and he certainly got the response he needed from the players.

There were a few anxious moments at the start when Cavan - the reigning Ulster champions - took a three point lead and seemed to have the beating of the Donegal defence, but gradually Donegal got their game going with the full-back line coming to terms with their opponents and from the middle of the opening half, Donegal were always looking the more likely.

However, it took a well finished goal from big Brendan McNelis in the second half to finally kill any Cavan challenge that remained.

“We knew it (the performance) was there, but we had to contend with injuries, exams and different things. As I have consistently said, the Ulster Minor League counts for nothing,” said manager Friel.

“I was not despondent, even after the Armagh game (Shield final). Indeed I learned a lot from that game and it made my job easier. I had more clarity regarding the team I would be putting out in the championship,” he said.

“We have to produce the same desire, the same fervour as we did on Sunday last if we are to be in with a chance this time,” said Friel, who expects that there will be little change to the starting team this evening.

The Donegal panel is:

Ryan McHugh, Micheal Roarty, Conor Cairns, Gary Kelly, William Gillespie, Daniel Mullarkey, John Rose, Conor Parke, Cathal McGettigan, Ray McNamee, Conor Harkin, Conor McEniff, Jimmy Coyle, Colm Melough, Jack Quinn, Brendan McNelis, Conor McCormick, John Fitzgerald, Eoin McHugh, Oisin Carr, Jack O Brien, Shaun McClafferty, Darragh Mulgrew, Mark Gallagher, Conor McBrearty, Hugh McFadden, Kevin Herron, Stephen McBrearty, Kevin McNern, Nicholas Breslin, Kevin O Loughlin, John McGarvey, Calum Gallagher, Aodhan McGinley, Cairan Lynch