Ulster U21 Final Preview – Miriam Fitzsimons

The Donegal Under-21 squad will tonight hope to capture another Ulster title. Action will throw in tonight at 8pm in Brewster Park, Enniskillen where the Donegal men will face Cavan who are contesting their fourth successive Ulster Final. Cavan who are also going for three in row Ulster titles go into the match as hot favourites. In 2010 the Ulster trophy was lifted by current All-Ireland Senior winning captain, Michael Murphy. At this time, the Under-21s were under the management of Jim McGuinness and many of that Under-21 team are now permanent fixtures in the Donegal Senior starting fifteen. Donegal went on that year to reach the Under-21 All Ireland Final against Dublin but in the dying minutes, the Donegal men were denied the title when Michael Murphy stepped up to take a penalty but to Donegal’s despair, the thunderous shot hit off the crossbar.

In reaching this year’s Ulster Final, Donegal eased past Tyrone in the quarter final with six points to spare. Patrick McBrearty shone on the day, really stepping up to the mark scoring seven points of the 0-15. Last Wednesday in the semi-final against Derry, Donegal started the second half very well with goals from Odhran MacNiallais and Caolan Ward. However, in the end, they just got over the line after a tension-filled final minutes and the match finished up Donegal 2-11 Derry 0-15.

Cavan’s biggest test in their bid to retain their Ulster title came in the quarter final against Monaghan, where the score line read 1-16 to 1-12 after extra time. They didn’t have too much work to do in their semi-final meeting with Down which ended 1-12 to 0-06.

Donegal Manager Maxi Curran is faced with injury worries this evening as the fitness of Ryan McHugh is still in question as he sustained a calf muscle injury last week, Letterkenny Gaels clubman Ciaran Cannon was helped off the field by the team doctor and physio last Wednesday night with an ankle injury. One of the stars of the Under-21 set up Patrick McBrearty was in Letterkenny General Hospital on Sunday evening following the Donegal senior NFL match against Dublin. The Kilcar man was allegedly bitten on his left shoulder by a Dublin team member. McBrearty was given a tetanus shot and a course of antibiotics after the incident.

Donegal boast seven Ulster Under- 21 titles and were inaugural winners in 1963. Their most recent Ulster title came three years ago and before that, in 1995. Donegal have won the All-Ireland Under-21 Championship on two occasions, in 1982 and 1987.

If Donegal prevail, they will go on to play either Cork or Tipperary in the All- Ireland Semi-Final on the 20th of April.

By Miriam Fitzsimons