Donegal are back in action and chasing a place in the Ulster U-21 Championship final when they face Armagh on Wednesday night.
The game is in Healy Park, Omagh, throw-in 8 pm and is Donegal’s second outing the championship. In the first round in Ballybofey, on Wednesday night week last, they ran out comfortable 3-10 to 0-6 winners over Fermanagh.
Team captain Patrick McBrearty ended that game with a personal tally of 1-7, in a man of the match performance while Willie Gillespie and Ciaran Brennan scored the other goals.
Ryan McHugh, Hugh McFadden an Ciaran Thompson posted the other points, in a game that Donegal struggled early on and took somen time to settle into.
Fermanagh, playing with aid of a near gale force wind, did all of the early pressing and they led 0-5 to 0-2 before Donegal enjoyed a purple patch before half time.
In the closing minutes of the half Gillespie and Brennan bagged a goal each and skipper McBrearty and Ciaran Thompson posted a point each to turn the tie on its head and send the locals in 2-4 to 0-5 in front at half-time.
With the elements in their backs Donegal pulled away in the second half and with something of a swagger McBreaty converted from the penalty spot for goal number three.
McBrearty, Ryan McHugh, Marty O’Reilly, Darach O’Connor and Hugh McFadden are the senior players in the Donegal squad.
However, O’Connor did not feature against the Erne men due to a hamstring injury suffered in the McLarnon Cup final, two days before the first round tie.
The Buncrana teenager is Donegal manager Maxi Curran’s main injury concerns while Naomh Conaill’s Ciaran Brennan is also a cause for concern. Brennan, who played full-back against Fermanagh and also scored one of the goals against the Erne County, took a heavy knock in Naomh Conaill’s league game with Termon, at the Burn Road, last Sunday. He suffered a serious enough jaw injury and also suffered from concussion afterwards.
Curran will be anxious to have both men fit and well for the Orchard challenge as they are key men in his armoury.
First choice goalkeeper Kevin McLaughlin also missed the Fermanagh tie, after suffering an injury in the warm up before the game. He was replaced by former Manchester United ‘keeer Joe Coll from Cloughaneely.
Wednesday night’s game is Armagh’s third outing in this year’s campaign. They defeated Antrim on Wednesday night last, in Newry 0-13 to 0-10 after being held to a draw on their home turf in the Athletic Grounds, seven days earlier.
In that game, the side managed by former Orchard County favourite Steven McDonnell, let a seven point lead slip in the closing two minutes of normal time.
They again were in front in extra time and led by six points before the Saffrons once more finished off with a late scoring flurry to tie up the game on 1-20 to Antrim’s 3-14.
In the replay they emerged 0-13 to 0-10 victors after Antrim had played most of the game with 14 men after full-forward Ronan McGady picked up an early red card. McGady scored 2-4 and was man of the match in the drawn game.
Midfielders Aaron Findon and Ethan Rafferty and half-forward Ciaran MacIomhar are the members of Paul Grimley’s senior team in McDonnell’s squad.
Rafferty did not feature in last week’s replay due to injury while MacIomhar was only used from the subs bench also because he was carrying a knock.
The word coming out of Armagh at the weekend was that Rafferty was being rested as a precaution ahead of yesterday’s Armagh versus Galway Allianz League clash in Tuam.
Donegal wrapped up their preparations for Wednesday night’s showdown with a weekend training camp in Downings.
Darach O’Connor, if fit, could be the only anticipated change from that which overcame Fermanagh in the first round.
Cavan, the reigning champions play Monaghan, in the other semi-final also on Wednesday night. That game is in the Athletic Grounds, in Armagh. The final is fixed for the following Wednesday night, April 9th with the venue defending on the final pairing.
The Donegal side and substitutes that featured against Fermanagh was as follows: Joe Coll; Conor Parke, Ciaran Brennan, Andrew McCloskey; Eoin McHugh, Ryan McHugh, Gavin Gallagher; Brendan McNelis, Hugh McFadden; Marty O’Reilly, Patrick McBrearty, Eunan Doherty; Dara Mulgrew, Ciaran Thompson, William Gillespie. Subs. Lorcan Connor, Gary Clancy Barry Griffin, Ciaran Cannon