BY RYAN FERRY
DONEGAL under-21 champions Kilcar enter the provincial fray on Sunday, when they travel to Antrim to face Tyrone’s Clonoe O’Rahilly’s in the quarter-final of Kickhams Creggan’s Ulster Under 21 Club Championship.
There had been doubts about Kilcar’s participation in the tournament, as the quarter-final was originally scheduled for last Sunday, in a direct clash with the Donegal-Galway game.
Kilcar did not want to play with out their county players Patrick McBrearty and Ryan McHugh and the panel were believed to have decided to pull out of the competition.
However, their abstention from the tournament was avoided when their game with Clonoe was pushed back one week.
“There was a bit of a doubt about whether we would play at the start, because of a clash with Donegal, but the game was moved and that seems to have resolved the situation,” said Kilcar manager John McNulty.
“We’re as well prepared as we can be. We’ve had a long lay-off since the start of November, but we’re looking forward to making the journey and we’ll enjoy the experience.”
Clonoe will be formidable opponents for Kilcar. They won the Tyrone Under-21 Championship in November, defeating Pomeroy Plunketts in the decider with a last-minute free from Tyrone senior panellist Danny McNulty.
“I’m sure they will be decent. Clonoe also won the Senior Championship in Tyrone last year, and they will have had quite a few players in both teams. We know they will be tough opposition.”
It is now over three months since Kilcar defeated Naomh Conaill 1-10 to 1-8 in the county final in Fintra, and although they haven’t been playing as a group, the players have kept themselves in good stead over the winter.
“Our lads have done a bit of pre-season now, but the majority of the team have been training anyway with Carrick or their colleges, so they should be in good enough shape,” said the Kilcar manager.
Kilcar played in the tournament two years ago, but were defeated by the Derry champions, Dungiven. McNulty believes that experience will help them this weekend when they face Clonoe.
“Two years ago, we played up in Creggan but we went out in the first round. We lost Ryan McHugh before the match, which was a big blow. But it was a good competitive game, and it gives us a bit of an insight into what to expect this weekend.”
McBrearty and Ryan McHugh are Kilcar’s star players, and both have started the year in good form. McBrearty was expected to line out for Maynooth in the Sigerson Cup yesterday, and McNulty was hopeful that the 2012 All-Ireland winner would not get injured.
“The two lads are going very well and it’s great to see. They have put in a lot of work and they’re getting the rewards for that. Paddy has a Sigerson game with Maynooth on Wednesday and hopefully he will come through it unscathed.”
Kilcar will be without Stephen McBrearty and Martin Byrne, who have missed their entire campaign through injury, while county under 21 panellist, Eoin McHugh is also unlikely to feature after fracturing his leg playing for Sligo IT last month.