Donegal going all out to win back McGuigan Cup

Donegal U-17s and Tyrone meet on Saturday

Tom Comack


Tom Comack


Donegal going all out to win back McGuigan Cup

Tom Comack @dgldemocrat

Donegal and Tyrone will meet once again in the Ulster U-17 League final (McGuigan Cup) this Saturday, at the Watty Graham’s Club grounds in Maghera. (Throw in 1.30)

It is the fifth final meeting in-a-row between the two counties who have dominated the competition since it first began.

Tyrone denied Donegal a fourth successive McGuigan Cup title in last year’s final.

Donegal are managed by Francie Friel, who is in his first year as U-17 manager.

Donegal won three of their four games to qualify for the final including a narrow one point snatch and grab win over Tyrone in the league format.

Four Masters’ Jamie Crawford fisted a goal in the dying seconds for a 1-7 to 0-8 win for Donegal in a very tactical battle on the artificial surface at the Tyrone Training Centre in Garvaghey.

Donegal recorded big wins over Derry and Fermanagh and the only blip on an otherwise perfect campaign so far was a defeat to Antrim in the last round of the league in O’Donnell Park.

“We are happy to be in the final and we are looking forward to the final and playing Tyrone.

“Overall we are very happy with the way the season has gone considering that nine players that are eligible to play for the U-17s are up playing with the minors.

“I have no problem with that. I knew when I got the job that was the way it was going to be.

“We’ve won three of our four games and had qualified for the semi-final before we played Antrim, the game we lost.

“We experimented against Antrim because we wanted to give the whole squad a run out and a chance.”

The Termon clubman feels the fact that Donegal have beaten Tyrone already and in the manner in which they did will make the Red Hands all more determined to avenge that defeat.

“We may have beaten them already but Tyrone are still the team to beat. They are putting in a huge effort with the U-17s. They are training three times a week with the minor team and aren’t playing with their clubs at all.

“We only have our squad together once a week on a Monday night and only for an hour. Karl Lacey has them for the other hour doing strength and conditioning with them which is very good and I can see big improvement in the players since Karl started to work with them.

“But an hour once a week to work on their skills isn’t enough.”

Donegal and Tyrone are due to meet in the first round of the new U-17 Ulster Championship. That game is only two weeks away on May 6th.

However, the Donegal manager insists, despite their championship meeting, it is not going to influence his thinking about team formation or tactics for Saturday’s showdown.

“It may not be ideal. But the McGuigan Cup is a prestigious competition. Donegal have a good record in the McGuigan Cup and we will be going all out on Saturday to win back the McGuigan Cup once again.”

The McGuigan Cup is in memory of the late Jim McGuigan, a highly respected Derry official over a long numbers of years.

The tournament began in 2012 and Donegal lead the roll of honour with three titles - 2013, ‘14 and ‘15 while Derry (2012) and Tyrone(2016) have one each.