Burren begin defence of the Ulster minor title against St Eunan's
FonaCab Ulster Minor Football Tournament preliminary round:
St Eunan's, Letterkenny (Donegal) v St Mary's, Burren (Down) (tomorrow, St Paul's, Belfast, 1pm)
By Tony McGee
Burren are back to defend the Jimmy McConville Cup in the 36th FonaCab Ulster Minor Football Tournament, organised by St Paul's GAC, Belfast, and they will start at the bottom as they were drawn against Donegal powerhouses St Eunan's in the preliminary round.
Tomorrow's game should be a suitable throw-in to a competition that over the years goes from strength to strength.
“It doesn't really matter that we have to play in the preliminary
round as, if you are to win the competition, you have got to beat the best,” said Burren captain Ardan McAvoy.
“We don't know a lot about St Eunan's apart from the fact that we played them a few years ago in the Feile competition and beat them. Some players from those teams should be in opposition again.”
St Eunan's have never won the Ulster title but they have a proud tradition in Donegal U18 football. They have reached eight of the last 10 county finals, winning
four of them. This year they beat Kilcar in the decider and they achieved another major success as well.
“We played in the Continental Youth Championship in Buffalo, New York during July and won the football final,” said joint-manager Paul McGovern.
“It was a tremendous experience for the lads. We were the first Irish team to play there. There were fifteen-and-a-half thousand players involved in the football and hurling competitions on 12 pitches. It was a superb occasion.”
However, St Eunan's have had a problem leading into the provincial action. Star man Conor O'Donnell, who scored 1-4 against Kilcar, is out of action with an ankle injury.
“As well, our county final was played in September and since then it has been difficult to get the players together,” said McGovern, who shares the managerial duties with Brian McGeehin.
“A lot of them are at colleges in various places. They are now learning different styles of football and different programmes.
“Aaron Deeney is at Queen's in Belfast, county minors Michael McGroary, Niall Hannigan and Peter McEniff are also at college. So are our joint-captains Matthew McGovern and Patrick McColgan.
“We haven't had a game together since the county final. One we had arranged had to be called off because the pitch was frozen.
“However, we are determined to give it our best shot but the absence of Conor O'Donnell is a big blow.”
Burren retained their Down title with a last gasp goal by Thomas Travers against Clonduff. They hit 4-8 last New Year's Day in the Ulster final against Kilrea so there is scoring power in the St Mary's attack.
The holders have lost around half of last year's panel but it seems adequate replacements are available. Back for more attacking flair is Liam Kerr, who netted a penalty against Kilrea and rifled over a point from play, while skipper McAvoy and his twin brother Malachai usually operate in the full-back line.
Former Down senior forward John Treanor manages the defending champions and has in his backroom team another Down senior Michael Magill, his brother Conor and ex-Crossmaglen player Anthony Cunningham.
FonaCab Ulster Minor Football Tournament quarter-final:
Killanny Geraldines (Monaghan) v O'Donovan Rossa (Antrim) (tomorrow, Woodlands, Belfast, 2.45pm)
By Tony McGee
Killanny is a new name in the Ulster Club Minor Football Tournament ranks. The Farney side will make their debut in the competition tomorrow when they meet Antrim champions O'Donovan Rossa.
“This year was the first time in our history to win the Monaghan championship,” said joint-manager Martin Burns.
“We are excited about playing in the Ulster competition. It is a new departure for us, unexplored territory and, hopefully,
we can make the best of
Rossa haven't be there very often, either. It is a number of years since the west Belfast side graced the scene but, since then, they have had their moments, like reaching the final of the U16 Paul McGirr tournament two years ago.
Rossa has had quite a successful season in both hurling and football. They won the Antrim Minor Football Championship, the Antrim Minor Hurling League and last week added the county U21 football title. A large number of the players were involved in all three victories.
Killanny's minor Farney victory made up greatly for disappointment at senior level in 2017 as the latter team was relegated.
“We lost our senior status and we have gone down again to intermediate level but the success of the minors gives great hope that promotion again may not be too far away,” said Burns the club secretary and joint-manager, along with Jimmy Gartland and Andrews Kearns.
The big man in the Monaghan team is the captain Dean Connolly, a UCD student who plays at midfield and used play soccer with Monaghan United.
His 15-year-old brother Kyle features at half-back and others of note in the panel are DCU student Eddie Walsh and David Deegan, bothcounty minors.
At full-forward is Dundalk IT student Conor Grimes with a number of the players having shared success with Patrician High School, Carrickmacross.
Antrim minor hurlers Michael McGreevy and Eoghan McMenamin will have their captain Jack Morris at full-back, county 'keeper Michael Byrne and Darragh Mathews
as company in the Rossa cause, under the guidance of joint-managers Gareth Devine and Dominic McEnhill.