Derry's Ciaran McFaul is heading into a busy new year
DERRY’S Ciaran McFaul is facing a busy January as he tries to juggle club and county commitments.
2016 will start for the Watty Graham’s, Glen man as it will more than likely go on, with no shortage of activity in either the red and white of his county or the green and gold of his club. He will be in McKenna Cup action with Derry and will captain Glen’s U21 side next month as they attempt to retain the Ulster club title at that level.
Speaking at the launch of the Paddy McLarnon Cup on Sunday night, the versatile playmaker admitted he is unsure how the next few weeks will pan out for him: “I don’t really know. I was chatting to Damien [Barton] last week and he was asking about the dates for this. I’ll maybe not play much of the McKenna Cup, but hopefully I can push towards the National League,” he said.
Barton has been working with an extended squad of almost 50 since Derry began their pre-season work and McFaul has been enjoying the early weeks of that setup: “It’s going well at the minute. It’s early days, but we’re training with big numbers so far. I’m not sure how long Damian will keep them, probably until after the McKenna Cup, so hopefully I’ll still be part of it come the league,” he added.
His club’s first task at Creggan will be Down champions Clonduff after they were paired together in Sunday’s draw at the Kickham’s impressive clubrooms. Glen are back for a second year in the competition after overcoming Loup in the Oak Leaf final, though their win over neighbours Slaughtneil in the first round was the more telling victory.
They will face a Clonduff side that came from six points down against Mayobridge in the Down final. The tie will see former Down and Derry stars Ross Carr and Enda Gormley go up against each other on the line.
Clonduff will look to uphold a strong tradition already built by Mourne clubs in the competition. Burren (2010 and '11) and Bryansford (2013) have all won the Paddy McLarnon Cup, which is heading into its seventh year.
“All the matches would be fairly tough,” said McFaul of his side’s draw.
“We don’t know much about them to be honest. The only team we’d really know about are St John’s because we played them here last year. Most of the matches will be hard.”
Glen will start the tournament as favourites as they continue to bring through the teams which won four consecutive Ulster minor titles between 2011 and '14. With only Emmett Bradley, Michael Warnock and Brendan O’Kane passed on from last year’s side and McFaul and AFL-bound Conor Glass among those remaining, their juggernaut will take a bit of stopping.
Back-to-back Antrim champions St John’s - who gave Glen a tough game last year - take on Cavan kings Ramor United, while Cullyhanna’s fourth visit to the tournament will begin with the challenge of Tyrone champions Donaghmore, who progressed from winning the county’s U21B competition last year to win the A title this term.
Monaghan champions Magheracloone could be dark horses after amassing 10-41 in their three games in the county championship. They are awaiting the outcome of the Donegal final between Kilcar and St Eunan’s to complete the quarter-final draw, which was attended by Antrim boss Frank Fitzsimons and new Saffron county chairman Collie Donnelly.
The quarter-finals are provisionally booked for the weekend of January 16-17 and January 23, with the final pencilled in for February 20/21.
ULSTER U21 QUARTER-FINAL DRAW
St John’s (Antrim) v Ramor United (Cavan), Cullyhanna (Armagh) v Donaghmore (Tyrone), Clonduff (Down) v Glen (Derry), Kilcar/St Eunan’s (Donegal) v Magheracloone (Monaghan)