Donegal are bidding for back-to-back All Ireland U-21C Hurling (Andrew O’Neill Cup) titles this Saturday when they face Fermanagh, in Healy Park, Omagh. (Throw-in 3pm).
Donegal were the first winners of the championship last year. They defeated Tyrone in the final in Celtic Park. That first winning side was managed by Paddy Flood. He has been replaced by one of his mentors from last season Tom Hennessy.
And the new man has guided Donegal back to the final following wins over Tyrone and Louth.
The Aodh Ruadh pair of Eddie Lynch and Matt Ahern scored the goals in the 2-10 to 1-7 victory over Tyrone in the quarter final.
And in the semi-final, Paul Nelson, Sam Doherty (2) and Matt Ahern found the net in the 4-11 to 1-13 win over Louth in Dunleer, Co Louth.
Donegal came from five points, 1-8 to 0-6, down at half-time in that game.
Fermanagh had just one game. That was against Sligo last Friday night, at the Sligo County Training Centre. Fermanagh had four points to spare, 2-13 to 1-12, at that end of that game. Vinnie Woods and senior ace Ciaran Corrigan scored the Erne County goals.
“Fermanagh are a very good side and they are very strong down the middle and they have a number of very good and classy forwards,” said the Donegal boss, who was at Friday nights semi-final.
“Their players are drawn from just a couple of clubs so they know each other well and you can see it in their play and that they are playing regularly together.
“But we are a good side, too, and we have prepared fairly well though training has been disrupted in the last few weeks with club football and we are also in the middle of the senior hurling championship,” said Hennessy.
Eight of last year’s winning team - Dylan Lafferty, Stephen Doherty, Ciaran Rami, Donal MacLochlainn, Conor O’Grady, Conor Grant, Sean Curran and Eddie Lynch - are on board again this season. Sean MacCumhaills Aaron McCauley, who has featured at corner forward in both games to date, was a member of the 2015 squad.
St Eunan’s Conor O’Donnell, who has played minor and U-21 football for Donegal, is also a member of the squad. However, he is going to miss the final with a knee injury.
“We have a few niggly injuries. The boys are playing a lot of football and hurling at the minute, but none of them are too serious.
“Other than Conor O’Donnell, who is very unfortunate, we hope to have everybody else.”
The winners of Saturday’s final will qualify for the All-Ireland U-21B Championship.