Donegal U-16 champions St Eunan's on the trail of a first Paul McGirr final win

Donegal U-16 champions St Eunan's on the trail of a first Paul McGirr final win

Tom Comack @dgldemocrat

St Eunan’s, the Donegal U-16 champions, are bidding for a first Paul McGirr Cup (Ulster U-16) final this Saturday, when they face Down champions St Peter’s, Warrenpoint.

The final is in Gardrum Park, Dromore, Tyrone, the home club of the late Tyrone minor footballer, Paul McGirr, in whose memory the tournament is run. The final throws in at 2 pm.

This is a first final for St Eunan’s, who have made it all the way to the decider on the back of impressive performances and big wins over Derrygonnelly Harps, Fermanagh, in the quarter-final and Derry champions and last year’s beaten finalists, O’Donovan Rossa, Magherafelt, in the semi-final.

Warrenpoint, who are also chasing a first Paul McGirr title, defeated St Brigid’s, Antrim in their first game and Killeeshil, Tyrone, in the semi-final last weekend.

In their two games on their way to the final St Eunan’s have chalked up an impressive 11-28. In their first game out Conor O’Donnell, Darragh Ellison and Padraig McGettigan scored two goals each and Michael Gallagher one in their 7-15 to 3-5 whipping of Derrygonnelly.

McGettigan scored two of the goals and Ellison and Gallagher got the others in last Saturday’s semi final win over O’Donovan Rossa.

Goalkeeper, Eoin O’Boyle, is the St Eunan’s captain and Pauric Ryan is the St Eunan’s manager.

Sean MacIntyre and Joe Higgins along with PJ Kelly make up the St Eunan’s management team. Pauric Ryan and P J Kelly have been with this group of players since they were eight or nine.

“The boys are really looking forward to the final. It is an Ulster final and for the players, management and the club it is a big game,” Pauric Ryan told the Democrat.

This year’s Donegal U-16 championship is the first Donegal title this group of players have won having lived in the shadow of a strong Sean MacCumhaill’s team at U-12 and U-14.

“They did well at tournaments when they were 10 and 12 and they even won a couple of tournaments up the North.

“But MacCumhaill’s were very strong for a few years and were physically stronger than our boys. But this year our boys seem to have sprung up and we finally made the breakthrough.

“They have really enjoyed the tournament so far and have played well in the two games and the boys are really enjoying playing the best teams in Ulster.”

St Eunan’s are a well balanced outfit with a strong defence backboned by Anthony Gallagher at full-back and Sean Ryan - man of the match in last weekend’s semi-final - at centre half-back.

Shane O’Donnell and James Kelly make up a solid midfield pairing while the real strength is in attack, which have really sparkled in recent weeks.

Conor O’Donnell, Darragh Ellison, Michael Gallagher and Padraig McGettigan are proven goal scorers and between them have scored 11 in two games.

Warrenpoint defeated St Brigid’s 1-10 to 1-6 and Killeeshil 1-17 to 2-12.

Eoghan Byrne at left half-forward and Aaron McBurney carry the main scoring threat up front for the Down champions, who play with five up.

They use corner forward Kohree Hourican as a sweeper.

Like St Eunan’s they have a strong midfield pairing in Ruairi McCormack and Eoin Carr, who scored four points each in the semi-final win over Killeeshil.

With Brendan Horgan available again after missing the semi-final - away on a family holiday - Pauric Ryan has reported a fully fit squad for Saturday’s crack at a first Paul McGirr final title.

Four Masters are the only Donegal winners of the Paul McGirr tournament. A team made up of future Donegal senior stars Paul Durcan, Karl Lacey, Barry Dunnion, Michael Doherty and Benny Byrne and managed by John Joe O’Shea and Danny Dunnion won the competition the first year it was run in 1999.

Four Masters defeated Armagh champions Pearse Og, who also had future All-Ireland winners with the Orchard County in Ronan Clarke and Andy Mallon, in their lineup.