Last year’s Donegal U-17 manager, Brian McCabe, says there is more to come from the Donegal minor team in this year’s championship after they were crowned Ulster Champions on Sunday.
Sean Paul Barrett’s minor team overcame Derry minors in a tense final in Clones and they are set to face Cork in the All-Ireland quarter final on Saturday, July 30th in Croke Park.
McCabe praised the individual performances of each of the players, and spoke confidently about the team’s ability to improve as the championship progresses.
“Niall O’Donnell, Eoin McGettigan, Peadar Mogan and Aidan McLaughlin were all brilliant, as were J.D. Boyle, Shane Ferry, Aaron McCrea and Odhran Shields. Mogan excelled in his role on Sunday and ran O’Donnell very close for man of the match on the day. They all did very well but I know these lads well and I believe they can double the standard they showed on Sunday; they can be a lot better than that,” he added.
One of the things most apparent in the minor game, and perhaps what was lacking in the senior team’s performance, was the consistent level of kick-outs from goalkeeper, Gavin Mulreany. As McCabe notes, “Gavin’s kick-outs were excellent all day.”
A combination of fine kick-outs and great running from the midfield allowed Donegal to overpower Derry as the game developed. Indeed, it was a fantastic Mulreany save which triggered a late burst of scoring in the first half, allowing Donegal to establish a lead at half-time when it could have been quite different.
McCabe identified the strong winning mentality and self-belief as a defining factor behind the minor team’s Ulster success. The grit and determination they played with on Sunday is testament to the hard work of Shaun Paul Barrett and his backroom staff.
“I rate this minor team very highly. They have great players throughout the squad and they know how to win. The team maybe weren’t at their best against Derry, but they had to win and they knew how to do it. I expect a lot more to come from this team,” McCabe said.
“Overall in this year’s campaign they have performed very well. Going to face Antrim up in Corrigan Park is never easy so that was a good win to start the whole thing off. The Monaghan game was great, and if anything I would say half-time came too early in that match. I have big hopes for these boys after Sunday,” he added.
Munster minor champions Cork are next on the agenda, and in comparison to teams competing in the Ulster Championship, Donegal’s next opponents present an unknown factor which, in this instance, is a double-sided coin as McCabe explains.
“The big worry is what the teams know about each other. Outside of Ulster it is more difficult to analyse teams. Shaun Paul watched them in the Munster final and no doubt he’ll be doing his homework in the build up to the quarter final.
“The plus side to this is that Cork may not know as much about our main men and our threats. That’s where we can beat them. In Ulster, teams were wary of the threat we carry through midfield with Jason McGee and Kieran Gallagher, but you’d hope outside of the province they don’t know as much about Donegal’s style of playing,” said McCabe.
Having the opportunity to play in Croke Park is something that will suit the minor team, according to McCabe. He believes the large playing surface can play to Donegal’s strengths and see them over the line against Cork, and maybe in getting their hands on the All-Ireland title.
“Croke Park suits the pace this team have. Players like Nathan Boyle and Enda McCormick will eat up the space with their speed. I think it could really play into their hands. The other thing about Croke Park is that it makes marking the two midfield lads a lot more difficult than it would be in the likes of Breffni Park or Clones. That makes those central players very dangerous,” McCabe said.
“These boys are 17 or 18 years of age and they know they’re two games away from an All-Ireland final. The winner of the quarter final is likely to meet Galway, who I’ve heard talk about as being favourites. Our boys are well able to compete and win, though. They haven’t picked up many injuries and they’re in a good place after Sunday. The team will be on a high and ready for Croke Park and the challenge ahead,” he added.
With the senior team set to face Cork in the tie following the minor game, there will be a great Donegal contingent on Croke Park on the day and this hugely talented minor team will get the support and credit they deserve, as was the case last Sunday.
The minor game throws in at 2 o’clock in Croke Park on Saturday, July 30th, with the senior game beginning at 4 o’clock that evening.