Donegal manager Mickey McCann
“This is the strongest ever Donegal panel” - Donegal boss Mickey McCann has never been given to hyperbole, so when the level-headed Burt man makes such a statement, it is time to take notice.
Antrim U-20’s 1-10
Later this week they will be taking on UUJ in the Conor McGurk Cup. They will be going into that game on the back of a convincing victory over Antrim U-20s who could not match the sheer physical power of Donegal and man of the match Ritchie Ryan who finished up with a tally of 2-10 in Dunsilly today.
Ronan McDermott was also prominent grabbing a goal and Sean McVeigh hit a goal and a point from wing-back on a day when McCann handed debuts to Brian MacIntyre, Conor Gartland, Daire O'Maoileidigh, Dean Harvey, Kevin Curran, Cathal Doherty and Liam McKinney.
And they did it without Danny Cullen, who is on honeymoon, Declan Coulter, Michael Donoghue, Ciaran Matthewson, Oisin Marley and the returned to the panel Davin Flynn, although Donegal will no longer have the recently retired Lee Henderson and Joe Boyle.
A delighted McCann said he was now in the situation where “players are contacting me looking to play hurling for Donegal instead of the other way around which was the situation in the past”.
This game was well over at the break when Donegal led by 4-10 to 0-4 in a whirlwind 30 minutes where they simply overwhelmed their youthful rivals. The young Antrim side improved in the second half as they tagged on 1-6, while Donegal also hit 1-6 as McCann gave some young lads their chance.
“It was very pleasing and we really came out of the blocks very well for our first match back and we were very clinical,” the Donegal manager said. “Ritchie Ryan is a big lad, and he was causing real havoc for them with his sheer physicality and finishing ability. He scored 2-10 and was very accurate from play and frees.
“We had seven debutants and they all did pretty well and showed that they are well able to play county senior hurling. “Four of them are just out of minor last year, so that is even more encouraging, and we have the two Hartnett brothers from Dungloe to also come back into the reckoning.
“Antrim were full of running and their touch was good but we matched them and our greater physicality also told strongly. And our young lads were well able for it which was really pleasing. Ruairi Campbell was on the score sheet as was Daire O’Maoileidigh who had a very impressive debut and he definitely brings something extra to the team.
“Ritchie has lost a good bit of weight in the past six weeks or so and he will be a handful for any full-back anywhere and Ronan McDermott is also in great shape. We are in a good place and we will take on UUJ next Saturday and they beat Antrim fairly well so it will be a much stiffer test for us.
“They will be much more physical, so it could be quite a contest and if we get over them it will be Down in the final. The more games the better now and UUJ have some strong players”.
“Everybody will be on board for this semi-final apart from Danny Cullen so we should be able to put out a strong side. But these young lads add a whole new dimension and there is competition for places and that can only be good. Training is going well, and this is the strongest panel we have ever had”.
Game wise, Donegal moved into a quick lead through Campbell after just two minutes. That was quickly added two by a goal and a point from McVeigh and they led by 1-4 to 0-2 with Seamus McCauley and Niall McGarry replying for the losers.
But the outgunned Antrim men could only add two more points in the remainder of a most one-sided opener both from Enda Og McGarry as Donegal tacked on a further 3-6-the scores coming from Ryan, who grabbed a goal in the 18th minute with Gerard Gilmore and the hard running Ronan McDermott also finding the net and young Conor Gartland on target in a whirlwind first half.
The tempo and scoring rate dropped considerably on the resumption with both sides adding a total of 1-6 each as Donegal ran their bench. Ryan found the net again in the second half as well as a few points with half time sub Bernard Lafferty also getting on the scoresheet.
Antrim fared better in this half with Enda Óg McGarry goaling and their points came from Niall McGarry, Aidan Scullion, Conleth McKinley and sub Daire McMullan.
Donegal: Luke White: Brian MacIntyre, Stephen Gillespie, Padriag Doherty; Sean McVeigh (1-1) Gavin Browne, Jack O’Loughlin; Conor O’Grady, Conor Gartland (0-1); Gerry Gilmore (1-0) Ruairi Campbell (0-1), Ronan McDermott (1-0); Josh Cronolly McGee, Ritchie Ryan (2-10, 5f) Daire O’Maoileidigh (0-2). Subs used; Bernard Lafferty (0-1) Dean Harvey, Kevin Curran, Liam McKinney, Niall Cleary
Antrim: Callum Mullan; Declan Mooney, James Bakewell, Conor Boyle; Ruairi McCormack, Enda Óg McGarry (1-2), Jack McGowan; Dualta Wilson,Enda McCartan; Anthony McGarrigle (0-1), Seamus McAuley (0-2), Seanie McIntosh; Niall McGarry (0-1), Aidan Scullion (0-1), Conleth McKinley (0-1). Sub used Daire McMullan (0-1).
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