WHEN THEY GATHERED in the dressing room at St Tiernach’s Park in the euphoric moments after winning the Ulster final, Donegal’s minors had already begun to think about a bigger stage.
The auditorium will have an eerily-empty aura about it on Saturday afternoon, but Shaun Paul Barrett’s team will still be doing their thing on Gaelic football’s biggest stage.
Donegal minors have an earlier-than-expected day out at Croke Park when they take on Cork in their All-Ireland quarter-final, a game fixed as the curtain raiser to the day’s All-Ireland senior qualifiers – one of which is the senior meeting of Donegal and Cork.
Donegal won their seventh Ulster Minor Championship title with a 2-10 to 1-11 win over Derry in Clones.
Goals by JD Boyle and Nathan Boyle sealed the Fr Murray Cup.
Barrett waited long and hard for the day, his anticipated appointment to the minor position coming a year after he desperately wanted the throne for the 2015 season.
The Milford man, behind the darkened lenses of his sunglasses, was quick to move on from the win.
“Once the whistle went, we were looking forward to the next day,” Barrett told Donegal Sport Hub.
“It was joyful, winning Ulster, but it was about moving on. We quickly got focussed on the quarter-final.”
By the time the troops emerged at the Donegal GAA Training Centre in Convoy two evenings later, the peps in the steps were considerable.[adrotate group=”43″]
“This has always been the plan,” Barrett noted.
“These boys have had a spring in their step for a long time. All we have been doing, everything we have been saying, has been building up for these days. They were all stepping stones, winning the League, beating Antrim, Monaghan and Derry.
“We’re going to Croke Park with a good spring now.”
Donegal have never won an All-Ireland minor title. Two years ago, Kerry denied them the chance on All-Ireland final Sunday. The aim is there, but Barrett, for now, isn’t willing to entertain September talk.[adrotate group=”70″]
He said: “It is the ultimate aim, of course it is, but it’s about the small building blocks now and we can’t look past Saturday and Cork – absolutely no way.
“We went to see them play in the Munster final and they’re a fine side. They ended up losing by six points to Kerry, but they were a point up after 51 minutes and had their chances.”
Mark Buckley scored 2-2 against Kerry, while Damien Gore is regarded as a real threat from frees, off both feet, and Colm O’Callaghan is the third segment in what is classed as a lively Rebel full-forward line.
Donegal will hope they don’t have a repeat of the nervous beginning to the Ulster final, when they allowed Derry rack up a four-point lead before JD Boyle struck the crucial first goal.[adrotate group=”38″]
After the display of Jason McGee and, especially, Kieran Gallagher, at midfield in the Ulster semi-final against Monaghan, Derry negated the threat posed by Donegal’s centrefield duo.
Goalkeeper Ben McKinless’s kick-outs were a real feature on the final.
Barrett said: “We have to adapt because every game takes on a life of its own. We were a small bit nervous and kicked a few wides. We did have difficulty getting ball in the middle, but you’d have to credit Derry for that.
Niall O’Donnell has donned the mantle of the Donegal talisman and the St Eunan’s man is certainly the man with the stardust, but he hasn’t been alone in leading the Donegal side to headquarters.[adrotate group=”46″]
Gallagher was exceptional against Monaghan and the tireless Peadar Mogan was the ace against Derry in the final.
Dungloe’s Mark Curran has received little in the way of plaudits, but has delivered in spades. Curran kept Monaghan’s David Garland to a point from play in the semi-final and Eoghan Bradley was taken off after being shackled by Curran in the final.
Barrett said: “There are leaders all over the field here. Everyone is expected to do a job and, so far, we’ve had a lot of men standing up to be counted.”Tags: