By Niall Gartland
A ROW was averted earlier this week when the Ulster GAA decided to pull forward Derry u-20’s Ulster Championship semi-final clash against Donegal, thus permitting their five senior inter-county players to line out in the Oakleafers’ upcoming provincial opener against Fermanagh.
The game was initially scheduled for the middle of next week, which would’ve meant, under a new rolling ‘seven day’ rule, that Matthew Downey, Lachlan Murray, Eoin McEvoy, Niall O’Donnell and Mark Doherty would’ve been ineligible to line out for the Derry seniors.
That was something that drew the ire of Rory Gallagher, who hit out at Ulster GAA’s administrative body in the wake of his side’s Division Two final defeat to Dublin on Sunday.
But Ulster GAA decided on Tuesday that they would change the scheduling of the u-20 game, ensuring that all the aforementioned players can theoretically play in both of their upcoming Derry matches.
So that sets the backdrop for Saturday’s game against Donegal. Derry qualified by virtue of a hugely convincing win over Fermanagh last Wednesday night, controlling matters from the outset en route to recording a 3-12 to 0-8 victory.
Managed by Martin Boyle, they looked extremely strong and they can call upon many of the players who won the delayed All-Ireland Minor Championship in 2021.
Donegal, meanwhile, made hard work of their opening round victory over Antrim. It took a penalty shoot-out to separate the two sides.
They’ll be big underdogs, but as Down’s win over reigning Ulster and All-Ireland champions Tyrone showed last week, anything can happen in a game of football.