Following Sunday’s postponement, the St. Eunan’s Minor footballers Ulster Minor Club quarter-final v Armagh champions Clann Eireann has been rescheduled for this Saturday, December 16th at the St. Paul’s club, Shaws Road in Belfast.
St. Eunan’s accounted for last year’s winners, St. Mary’s, Burren in the preliminary round 10 days ago.
St. Eunan’s joint managers Brian McGeehin and Paul McGovern say the one week delay hasn’t been ideal in terms of preparation.
“We had an 11 week gap between our county final and the Burren game. We had a few friendlies lined up but they all fell through unfortunately”, said McGeehin. “We were worried that the boys would be rusty and in the first half, they were. Thankfully we were only two points down at the break so the game was still close.”
Burren missed a penalty in that first half that could have put five points between the teams at half-time and McGovern pointed to that as a huge turning point.
He said: “The penalty save was a huge moment in the game. To be fair, we felt the Burren player had over-carried the ball by quite a few steps before he was fouled so we were disappointed it wasn’t a free out.
“The lad struck a good penalty but thankfully Ronan McGeehin guessed right and made an outstanding save. Then, in the second half we were awarded a penalty of our own after Aaron Deeney had rounded the goalkeeper and Niall Hannigan buried it. That gave us a 4-point cushion with about 6 or 7 minutes to go and the boys held out very well.”
St. Eunan’s were very impressive winners of this year’s Donegal Minor Championship title where they racked up big scores – including 5-10 in the Co. Final v Kilcar but in a tight game against Burren it was their defence that took the honours and McGeehin was quick to praise the men who often get overlooked when big scores are being tallied.
He said: “The defence has been brilliant all year and they stepped up once again last week. We were missing county minor, Michael McGroary who normally lines out at centre-half back on Sunday and he will be missing once again this Saturday but that’s why you have a squad.
“James Kelly stepped in and didn’t put a foot wrong. James was unlucky not to start for us this year, he missed a game with work commitments in the championship and the defence was playing so well we couldn’t get him in, though he came on in every game.
“Anthony Gallagher is the youngest member of our squad – he doesn’t turn 17 until next week – but he’s had an outstanding campaign and was a lot of people’s man of the match against Burren.
“Peter McEniff is another that is underage again next year and he too has been brilliant this year. We also have Ciaran McCloskey, Jerome Angel-Atuahene and Ryan Hilferty who are last year minors making up a very solid backline with Ronan in goals who is also underage next year, it bodes well for 2018!”
So what do they know about this week’s opposition?
“Very little” conceded McGovern.
“Obviously we know they won the Paul McGirr (U16 Ulster title) two years ago so that probably makes them the presumptive favourites to win this competition.
“We know they beat Crossmaglen in the Armagh final and any team that beats Cross will be good! You do hear things, like they have a very good forward who was on the Armagh minor team etc. but they’ve had an opportunity to watch us play last week whereas we haven’t seen anything of them. That could be a big advantage come Saturday.
“For us, really we just have to focus on our own performance and try and get that right – we always say that if we turn up with our A game we will be very hard to beat.
“It’s difficult to prepare with over half the squad scattered around the country at third level college – we’ve only been able to get together at weekends and not having matches has hindered our preparations. We were definitely rusty in the first half last time out though the lads were brilliant in the second half, they really took the game to Burren and defended like demons. Hopefully having a game under our belts will be a help.”
Conor O’Donnell and Michael McGroary missed the win over Burren and McGovern said they would be missing again this week.
“Conor’s looks more long term,” McGovern said.
“He’s seeing a specialist in Dublin this week and it is very likely he will need an operation to cure an ankle / Achilles problem. He’s a massive loss. He would have been our top scorer through the championship and he links the play so well for us.
“Michael would be closer to a return but I’m afraid this week will be too soon for him. Michael was a county minor this year and Conor was on the Donegal U17 team so we’re losing two county players.
“Peter McEniff has an Ulster Colleges trial midweek so we are praying that he comes through that okay, we can’t afford to lose anyone else! But other players will have to step up if we’re going to progress.”
McGeehin concluded: “It’s great to still be involved, even if we’d have preferred the competition to be run a couple of months ago. They’re a great group of lads and they’ve made us proud the whole way up.
“Hopefully they can give a good account of themselves on Saturday and keep their season going another week.
“They’ll need to match the intensity they showed in the second half against Burren for the whole game this time against Clann Eireann – it’s a meeting of the last two Paul McGirr winners so no doubt it is the game of the round, hopefully the lads can dig out another big performance and get into the semi-finals.”
Throw-in on Saturday is at 12 noon.Tags: