Donegal minors go in search of final spot

Donegal minors go in search of final spot
Declan Bonner’s Donegal minors are also one step from an Ulster final appearance when they take on Antrim in the curtain raiser on Sunday.

Declan Bonner’s Donegal minors are also one step from an Ulster final appearance when they take on Antrim in the curtain raiser on Sunday.

Like their senior counterparts, the minors go into the contest as odds-on favourites.

The sides have already met this year in the Ulster Minor League with Donegal coming out of that game comprehensive winners by 5-15 to 0-8.

That game took place in Ballymena and Antrim looked a very average side.

However, Antrim had a big win over Fermanagh in the championship quarter-final in Brewster Park, winning by 5-10 to 2-8. Indeed at one stage, they had overrun the Fermanagh boys to lead by 4-5 to 0-3.

The Antrim side which lined out against Fermanagh and that which faced Donegal in the Minor League in early April was much changed with only about half of the team that faced Donegal retaining their places.

Ruairí Scott, at midfield, was their top performer against Fermanagh, hitting 1-5, and he was one of those missing for the Minor League clash with Donegal.

On the other side of the coin, Donegal were missing Jamie Brennan and Aodh Ruadh pair Niall Harley and Colm Kelly for the Ballymena clash.

No doubt Sunday’s game will be a much different encounter to that Minor League meeting and Declan Bonner will be aware of that.

Donegal went on to win the Ulster Minor League, but they mixed the good with the bad when they won their opening championship game with Derry in Celtic Park.

They were very good in the opening half and should have had the game in the bag at half-time as they created goal chances which went abegging.

Then in the second half, they were put under pressure by the Oak Leaf boys and in the end they were very relieved to get out of Celtic Park with a 1-10 to 0-8 victory, a five point winning margin that probably flattered them.

Hopefully, they have learned lessons from that second half. They have a stronger panel now with Stephen McBrearty having another month of training under his belt while Conor Doherty is back to full fitness. Despite this, manager Declan Bonner may elect to make few changes to the starting line-up and McBrearty and Doherty may be held in reserve but are likely to play some part on Sunday next.

Hopefully, by Sunday evening, we will be looking forward to two Donegal teams preparing for Ulster finals - something which happened the last time a minor team made the Ulster final in 2006.

The teams that played in the Minor League were:

Donegal: P Byrne; D Monagle, K Gillespie, J McDyre; C Mulligan (0-1), T McClenaghan, N Friel (0-1); C McGonigle, M Carroll (0-5); J Campbell (1-2,1f), E Ban Gallagher, C Doherty (0-2); C Bonner, G McBride (2-0), L Connor (1-3,1-0pen). Subs., G McFadden for McDyre 23; E O’Donnell (1-1) for Bonner 26; S O’Donnell for Carroll 36; A McClean for Doherty 48; C Diver for McBride 50; S McMenamin for Campbell 56.

Antrim: A Hasson; C Beggs, T McGovern, C King; P McPartland, J McGee, C Eastwood; T Duffin, R McNulty (0-3,2f); R Hannigan (0-2), C Small, B Corr; E Fyffe (0-2,1f), J Conway (0-1), J Fyffe. Subs., T O’Kane for Corr; L Lafferty for O’Kane (black card, 44).