Donegal minors aiming to keep the foot down says Ward

By Michael McMullan

WHEN Tyrone minors visit Ballybofey on Saturday is not knock-out but that’s not how Donegal manager Barry Ward is looking at it.

Both teams won their opening games and Ward wants his side to keep their foot on the gas.

After three years managing the senior team in his native Ballyshannon and a stint with the county u-16s, Ward stepped up to take over from Luke Barrett who joined the senior camp under Jim McGuinness.

Two wins in the Ulster League elevated Donegal to a semi-final they lost to Down after surrendering a nine-point lead.

It was yet another one of the blustery days this year and Ward points to the advantage of nicking a goal against the wind to provide a platform for the second half. It’s something he has noticed across the grades.

“I’m happy with the progress we’re making,” he said. “We are looking forward now to Tyrone on Saturday. Again, I think conditions aren’t going to be great. It’s the same for both teams, so we just have to adapt to whatever’s going on.”

Asked if the fixture is diluted with the new-look format of groups, an approach that throws up repeat pairings in the knock-out stages, Ward’s outlook is simple.

“There’s only one way to approach it, you have to go with your front foot forward and give it your best,” Ward said of Saturday’s game.

“I would never like taking the foot off the throttle because it could be very hard to get it back on it again so we’ll be giving it everything we have to put in a performance on Saturday.”

With the “narrow window” and game coming fast down the tracks, Ward feels his side can’t afford to drop off. It’s a schedule of prepare, play, recover and repeat.

“It’s just about keeping it going and just building on that each week,” he said.

“You’re getting very little chance to train. A couple of sessions this week straight into a game so, I think, it’s just important to keep that momentum going and keep the spirit with the lads.”

An Ulster U-21 winner in his playing days, Ward knows how the inter-county scene works and is encouraged with what is going on in the county now.

“The players are buying into it at all age levels and you’ve got Convoy there with at the Centre of Excellence on Saturday mornings,” he said.

“It’s a hive of activity and that’s what you want to see. They’re all doing their best with development squads.

“You are looking at the minors going out and the seniors are there, so that’s where they want to be.”

For Ward, it’s all about getting played used to the environment they strive to be part of when they graduate to senior level. He also feels the minor grade is as competitive as u-20 and senior level in Ulster.

“It’s about making sure they’re doing the proper gym work and nutrition and things like that,” he summed up of the preparation.

“They’re (Ulster counties) all buying into that and see it as the way forward. So, look, it’s important that Donegal are up and running and at it as well.”

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