Donegal U-16s play Monaghan in Letterkenny on Saturday.
Donegal and Monaghan renew their rivalry again on Saturday when they meet in the semi-final of the new format Buncrana Cup in O’Donnell Park. (Throw-in 1.30 pm)
This will be a third meeting in-a-row at the semi-final stage. Donegal claimed the victory last season and Monaghan advanced to the final the year before.
The last two meetings were 40 minute games, but under the new format Buncrana Cup all the games are full blown 60 minute ties.
In the old format the semi-finals were normally played in August and were all on the one day.
Donegal go into the game on the back of two big wins. The Rory Kavanagh managed side defeated Down 0-22 to 2-2 and followed that up with a 1-10 to 0-3 win over Armagh in O’Donnell Park.
Donegal fielded largely two different teams for their two games as Kavanagh gave most of his squad game time.
Donegal topped their group and qualified for the last four and Saturday’s semi-final.
Red Hughs player Jack Bradley scored the Donegal goal against Armagh in a game that Donegal had eight different marksmen.
Eric Carr 0-3, Eoin Dowling 0-2, Domhnaill McBride, Darragh Gallagher, Luke Doherty, Eoin Martin and Shane Monaghan were the Donegal point scorers against the Orchard County boys.
Jamie Grant, Eric Carr, Senan Rooney and Daithi Roberts were all members of the Donegal U-17 squad defeated by Monaghan in last Saturday’s Jim McGuigan final.
Grant, Carr and Rooney all featured in last weekend’s U-17 decider. And on a day that Donegal never rose to the Farney challenge, Carr and Rooney were two of Donegal’s better performers.
Daithi Roberts is the U-16 keeper and sub ‘keeper for the U-17s.
Monaghan drew with Tyrone, 0-16 each, and defeated Fermanagh 1-11 to 1-8 in their group.
However, that was only good enough to take second place in the group, behind Tyrone, on score average.
This meant they had to take the qualifying route.
In last Saturday’s qualifying blitz they emerged from a four team group following wins over Armagh, Antrim and Cavan.
They defeated Armagh, 2-12 to 0-3, Antrim 0-8 to 0-3 and Cavan 4-6 to 1-5.
Midfielders Darragh Treanor and Alistair Stewart, along with Shane Slevin and Declan Courtney are the Monaghan players that have caught the eye most in the campaign todate. They will also have Jason Irwin, who was one of the star forwards for their U-17s last weekend, on board. He scored 1-4 against Donegal in Drumragh on Saturday last.
Of the two Monaghan are the more battle hardened and have come through the tougher side of the draw.
And they also have the benefit of the extra games in last Saturday’s play-offs.
The game is a big one for Donegal underage football to see where the county is placed in the pecking order in Ulster.
In last Saturday McGuigan Cup, Ulster U-17 final Monaghan made light of the Donegal challenge to emerge 12 point winners.
The ease in which Monaghan won that game has raised fears among many observers that Donegal may have dropped off the pace at underage level.
Saturday’s game will provide another yardstick.
The Donegal team and subs that face against Down was; Daithi Roberts; Dylan Dorrian, Shane Meehan, Conor Roarty; Eoin De Burca, Jack Gallagher, Domhnaill McBride; Eoin Dowling, Kealan Dunleavy; Carlos O’Reilly, Senan Rooney, Ciaran Moore; Johnny McGroddy, Luke Doherty, Eric Carr.
Subs: Aidan Breathnach, Ethan Cullen, Charlie Kennedy, Caolan McGonagle, Kyle McFadden, Eoin Martin, Shane Monaghan, Paul O’Hare, Darragh Gallagher, Paul Walsh.
The Donegal team from last time out against Armagh was; Daithi Roberts; Richard O'Rourke, Jamie Grant, Dylan Dorrian; Kieran Tobin, Jack Gallagher, Domhnall McBride; Eoin Dowling, Ethan Cullen; Darragh Gallagher, Senan Rooney, Jack Bradley; Carlos O'Reilly, Eric Carr, Eoin Martin.
Subs used: Ciaran Moore, Luke Doherty, Thomas White, Michael Doherty, Shane Monaghan.