After months of plotting and planning it is all systems go for Donegal minors when they get their season u nderway tonight against Fermanagh in Convoy. (Throw in 7.30 pm).
The game not only marks the opening tie in this season’s Ulster Minor Football League, but also marks the official switching on of St. Mary’s, Convoy, new floodlights, which is another milestone in the East Donegal club’s history.
Donegal are under a new management with Dungiven native and now Drumkeen resident Stephen Friel taking over from Charlie Mulgrew.
The new manager has assembled a strong backroom team of Declan Bonner (Na Rossa), Oliver Prunty (Convoy), Gary Duffy (Buncrana), David Gillespie (Naomh Columba) and Kevin ‘Cookie’ Gallagher (Downings).
Donegal are in Section B of the league along with Fermanagh, Derry, Tyrone and Antrim and tonight’s game is the first of four games with both Derry and Tyrone at home and Antrim away. The games will be played over the following four weekends with the last game with Antrim on Saturday April 14th in Casement Park.
It would appear that the new manager has left no stone unturned in his preparation and ensuring that the strongest possible Donegal side represent the county in pursuit of both league and championship honours.
He started out last November with a series of trial games before drawing up an initial panel of 70 players who were all taken in for fitness tests over the Christmas. These players were then given individual training programmes and were taken in again a number of weeks ago for a second series of fitness tests.
And it was from this group that the management arrived at their panel of 32 they are starting out with tonight.
Donegal have played a series of challenge games in the last month or so against Longford, Sligo, Clare and Monaghan defeating Longford and Clare , drawing with Sligo and losing to Monaghan.
“We are ready and looking forward to getting into action. I’m very happy with the way preparations have gone. We have a panel of 32 players and they have all given a huge commitment and have worked hard over the last few months are all in good shape and looking forward to the next few weeks and the league,” Friel told the Democrat.
The side is again backboned by players from this year’s County Vocational Schools’ team with Ryan and Eoin McHugh, Darragh Mulgrew, Raymond McNamee Jimmy Coyle, Cathal McGettigan Kevin McNern, Kevin Herron, Willie Gillespie all members of the Ulster winning schools team in the squad.
The panel also incluces John McGarvey and Brendan McNelis from last year’s All-Ireland winning schools’ team and Conor Parke of St. Eunan’s.
The manager has promised that Donegal will be putting their best foot forward in every game.
“I would like to win every game and we will be going out to do just that as far as I’m concerned. We will be fielding our strongest possible team for every game and any experimenting that has to be done can be done in challenge games. Winning can become a habit and we want to get into a winning one and that starts against Fermanagh,” insists the new boss.
Fermanagh, who surprised Donegal last year in Enniskillen, will be without their three St. Michael’s, Enniskillen players following their McRory Cup win over St. Patrick’s Maghera on Monday and have an All-Ireland semi-final date with Colaiste Na Sceilige from Kerry on Saturday.
This should weaken the Fermanagh challenge, but nevertheless the Erne Co will still provide a stiff enough test for their hosts.
The Donegal panel: John McGarvey; Diarmuid Spratt, Jimmy Coyle, Eoin McHugh, Raymond Mc Namee, Ryan McHugh, Nicholas Breslin, Dara Mulgrew, Conor Parke, Kieran Lynch, Stephen Mc Brearty, Conor McBrearty, John Rose, Kevin McNern, Cathal McGettigan, Willie Gillespie, Conor McCormick, Gary Kelly, Colm Melough, Conor Harkin, Calum Gallagher, Brendan McNellis, Aidan McGinley, Mark Gallagher, Oisin Carr, Ciaran Thompson, John Fitzgerald, Kevin Herron, Shaun McClafferty,Conor Cairns, Daniel Mullarkey, Kevin O’ Loughlin.