Gaoth Dobhair, the Donegal U-21 champions, are in Ulster Championship action this Sunday when they face Antrim champions, St Mary’s, Aghagallon.
The game is in the groundS of Creggan Kickhams, Antrim, who host the Ulster U-21 Club Championship; throw-in 12.30 am.
This is a first foray into Ulster for the Donegal champions, who missed out on a game in the provincial championship after the 2014 Donegal minor championship ran late and they missed the Ulster deadline.
The club won the last of their four U-21 Donegal championships back in 2005, before the start of the Ulster U-21 competition.
Gaoth Dobhair defeated Aodh Ruadh in a high quality Donegal final (2-19 to 3-10) on the October Bank Holiday weekend.
Michael Carroll 1-4, Odhran Ferry 1-1, Cian Mulligan 0-4, Gavin McBride 0-3, Eamon Collum 0-2, James Boyle, Niall Friel, Naoise Ó Baoill, Conor Boyle and Adam Ferry scored 0-1 each in the final win.
Gaoth Dobhair also defeated a strong Dungloe side in the Donegal quarter final and a fancied St Eunan’s in the semi-final.
The team is managed by Sean ‘Nancy’ Gallagher and is backboned by eight of this season’s Donegal U-21 squad, three of them - Ciaran Gillespie, Michael Carroll and Cian Mulligan - are also members of Rory Gallagher’s Donegal senior squad.
The other members of the county U-21 squad are Daire and Naoise Ó Baoill, Gary McFadden, Niall Friel and Gavin McBride.
Ciaran Gillespie is out of the game due to a hamstring injury picked up last Sunday playing for Donegal seniors against Cavan in the Dr McKenna Cup.
“Ciaran is a huge loss,” said Sean Nancy, who admitted Gaoth Dobhair’s preparations have been far from ideal ahead of the club’s first venture into Ulster.
“It has been very difficult to get any preparation done with so many of the team involved with the county,” added the Gaoth Dobhair boss.
“With so many lads with the county we didn’t know if we were going to able to field a team in Ulster, because we didn’t know if Declan Bonner was going to make the players available to us.
“But when we checked with Declan he said he had no problem and we expect it is the same situation with Rory Gallagher and the senior squad.”
But even at that with the hectic county and Colleges schedule in recent weeks, Gaoth Dobhair met up for the first time last Friday.
The home based players also trained on Tuesday night and Gallagher is to get the squad together again tomorrow night (Friday).
Gallagher will not be in a position to finalise his selection until after Donegal’s North West Cup meeting with Mayo on Saturday.
“It is not ideal but that is the hand we have been dealt and we are just going to have to make the most of it.
“Hopefully, they will come through Saturday’s game without picking up any knocks; after losing Ciaran (Gillespie) we cannot afford to lose anybody else.
“The boys are looking forward to Ulster and matching themselves against the other best teams in the province.”
Donaghamoyne, Monaghan; Crossmaglen Rangers, Armagh; Mayobridge, Down; Ramor United, Cavan and Watty Grahams, Derry, are the other big name clubs still in the championship.