North-west rivals clash again in last-four repeat

The Oak Leafers beat their near-neighbours at the same stage last year

Patrick McGurk (left) and Luke McGlynn
Derry’s Patrick McGurk (left) and Donegal’s Luke McGlynn (Margaret McLaughlin Photography )

EirGrid Ulster U20 Football Championship semi-final

Donegal v Derry (Wednesday, Páirc Seán Mac Cumhaill, 7.30pm, live on Sport TG4)

THE heat rises in the Ulster U20 FC tonight as Derry make the trip to Ballybofey to face Donegal with a place in next week’s decider up for grabs.

It’s a repeat of last year’s semi-final, won by Derry 0-11 to 0-5 at Owenbeg, but this time it’s Donegal who have home advantage due to finishing top of the group.

Senior manager Jim McGuinness opted not list Luke McGlynn for Saturday’s Ulster SFC win over Derry. McGlynn featured eight times this season including a start at Croke Park in the Division Two final.

Oisin Caulfield, Seanan Carr and Finbarr Roarty have played senior for Donegal this season and will be key players tonight.

Another player Derry will have to keep an eye on is Patrick McElwee, who has hit 2-6 so far in the campaign.

“Donegal will be a totally different proposition,” said Derry manager Hugh McGrath after his side’s quarter-final win over Cavan.

“They’ve some great forwards as well but they’ve more than two or three men that need tag, they’ve four or five men and that makes the task that much more difficult.”

Derry’s only defeat in the campaign so far was on home soil when Gavin Potter notched a late winner for Tyrone.

There is a young look to the Oak Leafers with five starters coming from last season’s All-Ireland minor-winning team.

Niall O’Donnell has played half-a-dozen times for Derry seniors. Ryan McNicholl, Ruairi Forbes and Patrick McGurk also lined out in this season’s McKenna Cup.

Danny McDermott was originally called up to the senior panel by Mickey Harte before a collarbone injury on club duty with Glen forced him out.

Oisin Doherty (2-19) is Derry’s top scorer across their five games and could have either Callum McCrea or Roarty for company.

At the other end, Derry’s form player of the campaign James Murray will have his defensive talents put to the test against McElwee.

Karl Joseph Molloy will be another needing watched and it could be a job for last year’s minor captain Fionn McEldowney.

Derry will have to occupy Caulfield,  one of five survivors from last year’s U20 campaign. He has an attacking instinct and Derry must curb him coming from going forward.

At the other end, the game defining battles could come down to Patrick McGurk’s role on McGlynn and McDermott matching up against Carr.

With Donegal on a high from last their seniors’ win weekend and with home advantage, it will be a tough test for Derry who have historically struggled to translate their minor form into the U20 grade.