Donegal and Derry get the ball rolling in Clones on Sunday when they go they go head to head in the Electric Ireland Ulster Minor Championship final, (throw in 12 noon).
The game is a repeat of last year’s semi-final meeting of the two counties when Derry pipped a highly fancied Donegal by a point. The Oak Leafers won that game 0-11 to 0-10 after Conor Doherty drove a last gasp Donegal penalty over for a point.
Derry subsequently went on to defeat Cavan in the Ulster final, Longford in the All-Ireland quarter-final before losing to Kerry in the All-Ireland semi-final. Kerry had an easy win over Tipperary in the final.
Damian McErlain is at the helm in Derry manager again this year while Shaun Paul Barrett has taken over the management reins from Declan Bonner in Donegal.
Barrett has four survivors from last year’s semi-final - Seaghan Ferry, Jason McGee, Niall O’Donnell and Eoghan McGettigan.
McErlain has six - Ben McKindless, Shea Downey (son of 1993 All-Ireland winning full-forward Seamus Downey), Fergal Higgins, Eoghan Concannon, Patrick Conroy and Shea McGuigan from last season’s Ulster winning side available to him again this season.
“We are looking forward to the final. Derry are a good side; they are the champions and they have six of last year’s team playing again this season,” said Donegal manager Barrett.
“Our preparations have gone well and we have no major injury concerns. We have four or five fellows carrying niggly knocks alright but nothing too serious.
“Jack Flannery, who is in the squad but hasn’t featured in any of the games so far, is the only one definitely out of the reckoning for the weekend.
“Jack picked up an injury in a club game which is unfortunate for him because he had been doing well in training. Other than Jack we expect to have everybody else.”
Donegal, the Ulster Minor League champions for a third year in-a-row, have good form going into the final. They have lost only once this season to Tyrone early in the league. Included in their league campaign was a big win over Derry in Celtic Park, 3-12 to 0-6. However, that Wednesday night victory should come with a massive health warning. St Pat’s, Maghera had only lost the Hogan Cup final - a few days earlier and Damian McErlain hadn’t all the St Pat’s boys back on board.
They both have two games played to make it to the final.
Donegal defeated Antrim 2-11 to 2-7 after receiving a mighty scare in Corrigan Park, but they followed up with a comfortable 3-15 to 2-12 semi-final win over Monaghan.
Derry qualified for back-to-back finals with a five point win over Tyrone in the first round and Armagh by six points, in the semi-final.
The winners will face the Munster runners-up, Cork, and the losers will face Munster champions Kerry, in the All-Ireland quarter.
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