DONEGAL supporters made their way to Clones in search of a rare double on Sunday last with the county’s minor and senior footballers in Ulster final action but it was the minors who provided all the joy on the day, the seniors losing to Tyrone in a nail-biting decider.
Shaun Paul Barrett’s minors had two points to spare over when the final whistle sounded 2-10 to 1-11. Next up is a meeting with Cork, beaten Munster finalists, in two weeks time but in the minutes after their superb win it was all about the here and now.
“We’ve got big plans for this team and hopefully they’ve a long way to go yet,” he enthused.
Joint team captains Niall O’Donnell and Jason McGee had just lifted the Fr O Muirí Cup but the manager was forced to hold a watching brief as he spoke to reporters pitch-side.
On what was a scorching hot afternoon, the Donegal minors took time to settle and found themselves four down at the end of the first quarter.
However, with ‘Man of the Match’ Niall O’Donnell soon finding his range, the Tir Chonaill men gradually worked their way back into the game and when the short whistle sounded they led by two.
Termon’s Enda McCormick was presented with an excellent goal-scoring opportunity in the early stages of the second half only for Derry ‘keeper Ben McKinless to make an excellent close range block while Kieran Gallagher opted to fist a point -when a goal chance was on – to put Donegal five clear late on.
“I was very disappointed with our start – the first ten minutes or so – when we found it difficult to get a hold of the ball around the middle of the field. In fairness to Derry, had their work done around the middle of the park but the lads battled hard and deserved what they got in the end,” he said.
“Derry are a fabulous side. I’ve seen them play four times this year. They did great work on their kick-outs and the game was in the melting point right to the end. They will give anyone a team – including Kerry – and hopefully we can both do Ulster proud in the quarter finals and beyond,” he said.
After recovering from that slow start, Donegal took a two point lead into the break. It was a lead they never relinquished but – at times – they took the wrong options in front of goal.
“We showed great character to get back into the game and JD’s goal gave us a great lift. We were two up at half time and I couldn’t have been happier.
“Enda had a goal chance early in the second half and he did everything right but their ‘keeper made a great save – he’s a top class ‘keeper while I was happy that Kieran (Gallager) went for the point when he did although they managed to pull a goal back almost immediately to leave things a little tight near the end.
“Listen, I’m immensely proud of this bunch of players. Since they came in at the start of the year they’ve done anything asked of them. They’ve been superb and done it with a heart and a half. They got their rewards today.
“We have big plans for this team and hopefully there’s a lot more football to be played this summer,” he smiled.
Posted: 10:30 am July 20, 2016