BY CHRIS MCNULTY
DONEGAL Minor Manager Stephen Friel is looking forward to taking charge of the county minors for the first time this evening when they welcome Fermanagh to Pairc Naomh Mhuire, Convoy for an Ulster Minor League meeting (throw-in, 7.30pm).
Former Naomh Colmcille manager Friel has taken over from Charlie Mulgrew and this Thursday sees the class of 2012 in combat for the first time.
Friel has named a 32-man panel which includes several of the Donegal Vocational Schools team which won the Ulster Championship last month.
The new manager comes off the back of an impressive tenure with Naomh Colmcille, as he helped the Newtown club emerge from the shadows of Division 4, winning promotion as well as the 2010 Junior Championship.
“I am looking forward to getting into action now this week,” he said. “Everything has been going well for us so far. We have played a few challenge games, but Thursday will tell a tale in terms of what it is going to be like in a competitive environment.
“We have named 32 players and we are not carrying any passengers at all. Everyone there is pushing for a spot on the starting team and that is a nice challenge to have as a manager.”
Friel has comprised a backroom team of Oliver Prunty (Convoy), Gary Duffy (Buncrana), David Gillespie (Naomh Columba) and Kevin Gallagher (Downings) as well as former Donegal senior team manager Declan Bonner.
“I would have worked with the others before with the county Under 16s, but Declan has been a new face to me and he has proven to be a wealth of knowledge and a great sounding board, he’s a fantastic addition,” said Friel.
“One of the very pleasing things for us has been the performances of those players who will be available to us next year. They are doing exceptionally well and they’re all pushing.
“I am looking forward to seeing them in a competitive game. They are a great bunch of players and the commitment needed, particularly in a county the size of Donegal, is huge.
“They have been brilliant though – some players from Glencolmcille and Kilcar are traveling over two hours to training and making the same journey home after. These are lads in their Leaving Cert year, their commitment is massive.”
Friel spent three years as Naomh Colmcille manager and also looks after the Convoy senior ladies team. He is a former footballer with St Canice’s and a former hurler with Kevin Lynch’s in his native Dungiven.
He insists that his main priority, like his senior counterpart Jim McGuinness, is the May 20th Championship showdown in Cavan, and he attempts to use the League as a ‘learning curve’.
It begins with a clash with a Fermanagh team possessing some players from the St Michael’s Enniskillen team that contests this afternoon’s MacRory Cup final.
For their part, Donegal will be looking to the likes of the McHughs, Eoin and Ryan, Aodhán McGinley, Stephen McBrearty as well as the likes of Conor Parke, Daragh Mulgrew and Oisin Carr from minor champions St Eunan’s.
DONEGAL MINOR PANEL: John McGarvey, Diarmuid Spratt, Jimmy Coyle, Eoin
McHugh, Raymond McNamee, Ryan McHugh, Nicholas Breslin, Daragh
Mulgrew, Conor Parke, Kieran Lynch, Stephen McBrearty, Conor
McBrearty, John Rose, Kevin McNern, Cathal McGettigan, Willie
Gillespie, Conor McCormick, Gary Kelly, Colm Melaugh, Conor Harkin,
Calum Gallagher, Brendan McNelis, Aodhán McGinley, Mark Gallagher,
Oisin Carr, Ciaran Thompson, John Fitzgerald, Kevin Herron, Shaun
McClafferty, Conor Cairns, Daniel Mullarkey, Kevin O’Loughlin.