For the second time in three years Donegal will be represented in both the Ulster Minor and Senior Finals on what will be another day to savour in Clones on Sunday.
In 2014 the Donegal teams celebrated a remarkable double success with the seniors recording a memorable win over Monaghan following the minor team’s impressive eight points win over Armagh. Both sides would go on to contest the All-Ireland finals that year and while neither celebrated victory at Croke Park, GAA followers in Donegal won’t forget a journey that brought us so close to double All-Ireland success.
Two years on and Donegal fans are dreaming again. On Sunday, Donegal seniors face the challenge of a Tyrone side who have worked their way into a provincial final for the first time since their 2010 win over Monaghan.
Mickey Harte’s team might have plied their trade in Division Two of the National Football League this season, but that hardly seemed to matter as they impressed on their way to another Ulster decider.
Their championship pedigree is as good as anyone in the province. It’s worth noting that last year, after being dumped out of Ulster in the preliminary round by Donegal, they ended up going further in the championship than anyone in Ulster, eventually losing the All-Ireland semi-final to Kerry.
Speaking ahead of Sunday’s final, Donegal manager Rory Gallagher said he wa sn’t surprised to see Tyrone get to this year’s final.
“We felt if we could do our work and get to an Ulster final, it was likely that it would be Tyrone, and that’s the way it has transpired. I think we are the two best teams in the province. It’s an occasion we have got used to, but never taken for granted. It’s a very special prize to be Ulster champions.”
Donegal’s minors face Derry in their final on Sunday in a game that’s a repeat of last year’s semi-final which was won by the Oak Leaf county.
Shaun Paul Barrett, the Donegal manager, is hoping to deliver Ulster success in his first year as manager.
“Yeah, it’s a big occasion for me, but when we came in at the start, that’s what we were looking for; to make the Ulster final,” he said.
Barrett lists Shane McGrath (back), Jack Flannery (dead leg), Senan Boyle (hamstring) and Aidan McLaughlin (sick) as concerns ahead of Sunday. All four, however, should be okay to feature.
For Rory Gallagher, there are no major injury concerns aside from long-term absentee Neil Gallagher. Donegal will welcome Neil McGee back after suspension.
See pages 29-44 for 16-page pull out Ulster Final Supplement