Donegal minors continue their championship build up this Saturday when they face Armagh in the Ulster Minor Shield Play-off final in St. Tiernach’s Park, Clones. (Throw in 12.45 pm).
The game is part of a double bill with the Ulster Minor League final meeting of Tyrone and Derry, the two teams from the same section of the League as Donegal.
Donegal, who finished third behind table toppers Tyrone and second placed Derry, booked their place in Saturday’s final with a 1-15 to 2-6 win over Down last weekend in Ballybofey. Saturday’s win against Down was, apart from their opening night win against Fermanagh, was Donegal’s best of the campaign to date and certainly a big step up from their displays against Tyrone, Derry and Antrim.
“Saturday’s performance against Down was very heartening and was a big improvement on the previous games and it looks as if we are making progress and going in the right direction,” said Donegal manager Stephen Friel.
Friel added Hugh McFadden from Killybegs to his squad last week. He has also drafted in Gaoth Dobhair’s Micheal Roarty in recent days, and now is very much in championship mode with just three weeks to Donegal’s championship opener with Cavan.
“We are progressing well and we have three more games, Armagh on Saturday, and Monaghan and Sligo the following weekend. We brought Hugh McFadden in last week and I feel he made a significant contribution against Down and gave us a physical presence around midfield that we had been lacking. I have also drafted in Micheal Roarty from Gaoth Dobhair and I will take a look at the U-17s this weekend. But I feel we have the squad we want and it is a matter of getting our focus and preparations right for Cavan.
“There are still a few places up for grabs in the team and fellas will get the opportunity on Saturday and two other games we have organised with Sligo and Monaghan the following weekend to stake for a place in the team for Cavan.”
Donegal have had an up and down league campaign with their opening night hammering of Fermanagh, followed by defeats in mediocre performances against Tyrone and Derry. They returned to winning ways again in their last two games with wins over Antrim and Down.
Interestingly, Tyrone and Derry who are playing for the Ulster Minor Football League title on Saturday are the two teams that Donegal lost.
The minor league is no guide to true form but it still puts Donegal’s performance against both Tyrone and Derry in context and may be some guide to where the Tir Chonaill boys are in the scheme of things in the province.
Armagh, who only played three group games, drew with Cavan, beat Down and lost to Monaghan, before giving Fermanagh something of a hammering in last Saturday’s play-off.
In Ryan McHugh - who has been Donegal’s best player to date by a good stretch - Conor Parke, Nicholas Breslin, Darragh Mulgrew, Conor Harkin, Raymond McNamee, Hugh McFadden, John Fitzgerald, Eoin McHugh, Mark Gallagher, Aidan McGinley and Stephen McBrearty, Donegal have the nucleus of a decent side.
It is a matter of now filling in the blanks and finding the right combination, something that the management hope to do over the next three games.
Armagh on Saturday presents the first opportunity in the process of finding a settled formation.
Donegal’s Ulster Minor League so far
Donegal 2-15, Fermanagh 0-3 (home)
Donegal 1-6, Tyrone 1-11 (home)
Donegal 0-9, Derry 1-13 (home)
Donegal 1-9, Derry 2-4 (away)
Donegal 1-15, Down 2-6 (home)