St Paul's Minor Tournament back after three year absence

Shaun Casey

The prestigious St Paul's Ulster Minor Football club tournament makes its long-awaited return today, with three games taking place across the weekend.

The competition, which began in 1982, is back following a three-year absence due to Covid-19, and each Ulster County is represented by their minor (under 17) champions.

2019 was the last time the Ulster Minor Championship was played, with Derry's Lavey capturing the title, snatching a one-point victory over Termon of Donegal.

Many great players and clubs have competed in the St Paul's tournament, which celebrates its 40th anniversary this season, including four-in-a-row winners Glen, with many of those minor winning teams now the backbone of the senior side that are in tomorrow's Ulster final.

The action gets underway with 2016 winners and Down representatives Burren taking on St Brigid's of Antrim at Shaw's Road, with a throw in time of 1pm.

Due to the freezing cold weather at the minute, plans have been put in place should conditions make the pitch unplayable, explains club spokesperson Conor McCartan.

“I think we'll be fine, but we're just putting contingency plans in place at the minute. We're confident enough the games will go ahead, we just need a wee bit of sunshine early in the morning that will thaw it out a little bit.”

The preliminary round tie of Fermanagh representatives St Molaise and Donegal's Four Masters also takes place today, in Colaiste Feirste 3G at 5pm.

And finishing off the action this weekend will be Derry's Dungiven, who won the tournament back in 1990, meeting Ramor United of Cavan at Shaw's Road, 1pm on Sunday.

Tyrone's Donaghmore clash with Scotstown of Monaghan next weekend while Armagh champions Clan na Gael await the preliminary round winners.

“We're delighted to have it back and there's a massive buzz around the place, especially when clubs start winning their minor championships, you start getting the phone calls asking and enquiring about it.

“It's massive for us in the club to get the tournament back on the (GAA) calendar, especially with the calendar being so changeable at the minute,” added McCartan.

“There are lots of central things going on around age grades and schools competitions, there's a lot of uncertainty around the calendar over the last 18 months or so. We're delighted to have it back.

“You hear stories every year of great teams that are coming through and we had aspirations ourselves as a club to win Antrim this year, but it didn't happen.

“While some of the clubs are new entries, we're not surprised to see the likes of St Patrick's Donaghmore, who would be long renowned at this particular age group as a super team, and Clan na Gael in Armagh.

“While they're new to the minor tournament, I know there's a lot of work has gone on in those clubs that have built up a reputation in these teams.”

The semi-finals are split, with one being played on Sunday 18th December while the second will take place on Boxing Day. The final is set for a New Year's Day throw in.