By Michael McMullan
DUNGIVEN face a huge challenge this weekend if they are to make the final of this year’s Ulster Minor Football Tournament.
That’s the take of joint manager Darrell O’Kane who had a look at the Down champions Burren last Saturday.
Burren (2016) and Dungiven (1990) are past winners of the popular minor tournament and they lock horns on Sunday afternoon (1pm) at St Paul’s on Belfast’s Shaws Road.
Goals from county minor player Odhran Murphy, Conor Gaile and Ryan McCloskey helped see off Cavan champions Ramor United in Sunday’s clash.
“I was watching the (Burren) game, but we were concentrating on our own game, but it was just about getting a feel for it.
“They will be hard to beat; they blitzed St Brigid’s and then took their foot off the pedal. They are a good side, they are very big and physical. Their spine is very strong, there is a lad at number six, he is a very good player.”
O’Kane is joint manager with Emmett McKeever, a winner of the competition and the club’s 1997 Ulster senior winning captain, with Daire McKeever also involved.
“Our Ramor game was a lot tighter game than the scoreline suggests, but we were just glad to get over it after not having a game for seven weeks,” O’Kane said.
“We took a two or three-week break to let the boys play other sports.
“We had them back out for two weeks.”
Getting games has been a problem. Derry minors weren’t able to play until the turn of the year and their planned challenge game with St Columb’s Derry fell victim of the weather.
“It’s all about getting the result and we were lucky enough,” he said. “I watched Ramor against Killygarry in the Cavan county final, they were a good side and had five county minors.”
Dungiven’s underage fortunes have been on an upward curve in recent seasons, with new GPO Emmett Stewart helping get structures in place for long-term progress.
Of the current minor team, five are still u-15 with others still eligible for next season which should see them well-placed in next season’s Derry Championship.
“I have been involved the last four years and we’ve been beaten in two semi-finals and two finals,” O’Kane said of their recent return to regular football at the top grade.
“Magherafelt beat us the u-17 final last year, Lavey beat us in the u-16 final the year before.
“Me, Raymond Tracey and ‘Banty’ (Stephen McGuigan) took a team before that. Magherafelt took us to replay in Ballerin and beat us by a point after a replay and extra-time.
“That team played B football at u-14 and won it. The young boys wanted to play in the B, but we wouldn’t hear tell of it and we should’ve won that championship.
“We have been knocking on the door the last four or five years. The u-20s have won two championships, so hopefully it will start putting us back on track again.”