St Paul's minor club quarter-finals at the mercy of the weather
FonaCab Ulster Club Minor Football Tournament quarter-final
St Eunan’s (Donegal) v Clann Eireann (Armagh) (tomorrow, St Paul’s, 1.30pm)
LETTERKENNY, St Eunan’s have conceded just one goal so far in minor championship football this season. That was against Kilcar in the Donegal final but only a super save by ’keeper Ronan McGeehin from a Burren penalty last Sunday kept the record intact.
It’s a point that Clann Eireann, who face the Donegal men at St Paul’s tomorrow in the quarter-final, will have noted carefully.
“Ronan’s save at the butt of the post was excellent and kept us in the game,” recalls St Eunan’s manager Paul McGovern.
“We were a bit rusty in the first half but not concerned at being two points down at half-time. The players were told at the break not to force passes, keep the ball and work it upfield. In fact be more clinical.
“Then, when Niall Hannigan netted our penalty kick seven minutes from time, to put us four up, we were well on the way to winning.
“However, we will need to play better for the whole game to overcome Clann Eireann. I believe, they are a very good team. Certainly, already having a game in the competition should be of benefit to us.”
It shows the strength of the Letterkenny panel that they can do without two of their main players. Conor O’Donnell (Achilles Tendon trouble) and Michael McGrory (chipped bone in his foot), both county panellists, are long-term injured players and will be out of action for some time.
Defence is a strong unit with Anthony Gallagher, James Kelly and Peter McEniff excellent at smothering opposition attacks, which was a feature of the victory over defending champions Burren.
“We don’t play with a sweeper,” says manager McGovern, “just as a defensive unit in which all the defenders back each other up. The defence has been very good all season.”
The preliminary round victory was a little bitter-sweet for centre-forward Hannigan, who netted St Eunan’s penalty-kick and added four points.
In the closing minutes he got a second yellow card but will be in action on Sunday.
Clann Eireann showed their determination and strength in the Armagh county final as they played most of the second half with 14 players, after having a man sent off shortly after half-time. It was a backs-to-the-wall performance as the Lurgan boys edged to a one-point win.
“It was a nail-biting finish and we, surely, were glad to hear the final whistle,” recalls joint manager Máirtín McConville, “but the boys showed their grit and ground out the win.”
It was Clann’s first minor county success in 48 years and they are now facing the Donegal champions in what could be the game of the series.
As St Eunan’s also ground out a narrow win last Sunday, they were watched by Lurgan scouts.
“St Eunan’s were impressive,” says McConville.
“They held the ball well and they have a solid defence that is good at crowding out their opponents. They will be very tough to beat. They play a Donegal-style of football and they have a good centre-forward in Niall Hannigan.
Clann Eireann have not had any any warm-up games since their county decider in September as most of the players have been involved in college football and a number of them in club U21 competition.
They had a number of players named in the Ulster colleges’ Allstar trials this week with McConville and joint manager Gary McCleary keeping their fingers crossed that no injuries would be reported.
FonaCab Ulster Club Minor Football Tournament quarter-final
Errigal Ciaran (Tyrone) v Ballinascreen (Derry) (tomorrow, St Paul’s, 11.30am)
ERRIGAL Ciarán and Ballinascreen clash in the quarter-final of the FonaCab Ulster Minor Football Tournament at St Paul’s tomorrow and for a number of the Tyrone players it is the chance for double success this week.
On Monday, the students from St Ciarán’s, Ballygawley maintained their interest in this season’s Danske Bank MacRory Cup into 2018, with Darragh Canavan – scorer of a wonderful goal in the All-Ireland U17 final and winner of the Ulster GAA Writers’ Merit Award for August – hitting six points.
He and a number of other St Ciarán’s players will be involved with Errigal Ciarán and, no doubt, Canavan will be a marked man by the Ballinascreen team.
“We have a number of other players who have had big time experience this season as well,” points out Errigal Ciarán assistant manager Stevie Quinn.
“Darragh had Ciarán Traynor and Cormac Quinn (right) as colleagues in the Tyrone All-Ireland winning U17 team and, in the Tyrone minor side, he had Peter Og McCartan and Joe Ogey for company. Peter Og also played with our senior side during the year.
“Still, we know that Ballinascreen will provide vary tough opposition. We are prepared for a big battle.”
It was back in July that Ballygawley defeated Killeshil to win the county final but since then the winners have been busy with club and college action so rustiness shouldn’t be a problem.
Errigal Ciarán won the Ulster title in 2005 and reached the final two years later but lost out then to Kilrea.
The last time that Ballinascreen won the Derry minor championship was in 2005 when they lost in the first round in Ulster to a CJ McGourty-powered St Gall’s.
The Oak Leaf boys are now hoping for a better run in the competition.
“It is not often that we get this far so we aim to make the best of the occasion,” says team spokesperson Jerome Bradley.
“We don’t have any real stand-out players, just a compact unit of hard workers. The lads were delighted with winning the Derry title and this is new pastures for us all now.
“No doubt, Errigal Ciarán will be a strong force to be reckoned with but we will do our best.
‘‘Unfortunately, we are without one of our best players because of injury but we have to get on with the job in hand.”
John Paul Devlin had scored 2-11 up until the Derry semi-final, in which he suffered a cruciate ligament injury which necessitated an operation last Saturday. He will be laid low for some time.
However, there are still a number of notables in the team, among them county reserve custodian Ryan Scullion, who saved two penalty kicks in the county final against Bellaghy six weeks ago.
“And he didn’t get the man-of-the-match either,” recalls manager Jerome Bradley.
At full-back is Ciarán Doyle, who has been turning in good displays, while up front is alert scorer Emmett Duggan. Conal Lagan and Eunan McBride are others who have shown style this year but as the team boss says this is a well-balanced outfit.
A number of the St Colm’s squad has MacRory Cup experience which always stands minor teams to good stead at this level, and during the build-up to the Ulster quarter-final the Derry champions had outings against St Mary’s, Magherafelt and St Columb’s, Derry as part of their preparations.
THIS weekend’s third quarter-final between Ramor Utd v Enniskillen Gaels, which had been scheduled for today, has been postponed due to adverse weather. A new date for the fixture will be decided on Monday