By Niall Gartland
DONEGAL teams traditionally haven’t fared too well in the Ulster Minor Tournament at St Paul’s, but Four Masters are hoping to buck the trend when they face Donaghmore in a semi-final clash on St Stephen’s Day.
The last Donegal team to win the prestigious St Paul’s competition was Aodh Ruadh all the way back in 1992, but Four Masters (based in the county town Donegal) have a strong winning pedigree, with this particular age group a dominant force since U-12 level.
That said, their manager Damien Dunnion admits they didn’t give the St Paul’s Tournament much consideration until their county championship was done and dusted. They’re taking it very seriously, however, and have qualified for the semi-finals with hard-fought victories over Irvinestown and Lurgan side Clan na Gael.
“We didn’t really think about it and to be honest I didn’t know the tournament was up and running again. We knew we’d have enough bother winning our county title so we didn’t get ahead of ourselves.
“When we won the county we started thinking about it, I knew we’d be able to compete but you never really know what other counties are going to be producing. We’d Irvinestown in the preliminary round and they were a really good side, and the game against Clan na Gael went right to the wire.”
Four Masters are facing a similar side to themselves in Tyrone representatives Donaghmore, who have blazed a trail in the Red Hand County, winning back-to-back league and championships at minor level.
“We won the All-Ireland Feile at Division Two level a few years back and Donaghmore were involved,” said Dunnion. “I remember watching them and thinking they were excellent. They were beaten in a semi-final they probably should’ve won against Clanmaurice and it would’ve been them and us in the final. I’d say they were probably very disappointed they lost that day. We’d be very similar in that respect, they’re doing really well at underage level.
“They’ve an array of talent and I think they’d eight players on the Tyrone team that won the Ulster Minor Championship last year which is some going when you consider how strong Tyrone are at underage level. They’d some key players on this year’s team as well and they beat Donegal on penalties.”
Perhaps surprisingly, Four Masters only had one player on the Donegal minor team this year – Seanan Carr, who was their captain when they won the U-14 Feile title in 2019. But make no mistake, they’re a strong team and they’ll have every confidence of reaching the St Paul’s final for the first time in their history. Winning is a habit, as they say.
“We had our first training session on the 23rd of February, never in my wildest dreams did I think we’d be playing on Boxing Day. It’s been a long haul but when you’re winning matches it’s easy to keep going,” said Dunnion.