Ward expecting a cracking game

By Michael McMullan

DONEGAL minor boss Barry Ward is expecting a cracking game when they entertain Armagh in Saturday’s Ulster semi-final in Ballyshannon.

Donegal earned home advantage after topping their group with Armagh needing to dust themselves down after losing to Derry to overcome Monaghan in the quarter-final.

“Armagh are a quality team, they won the Buncrana Cup last year so that goes to show the quality they have,” said Ward, in his first year in charge after taking over from Luke Barrett. “It’s a semi-final, so any team making it up to the semi-final…you can see how competitive it has been in Ulster over the last number of years. We’ll be looking at ourselves and looking forward to the challenge.”

Saturday’s game comes less than a week since a penalty shootout was needed to separate the counties in the Ulster senior final.

As manager of the minor team, Ward can see how the excitement in the county has filtered down to players he’s hoping can make the step up in the coming years.

“I meet so many of them at the (Donegal senior) games and they go as a group of minors,” said Ward.

“There’s a lot of them tagging up from different towns and villages in Donegal and they meet up at games which is great to see. It’s not just with their home friends, you can see them all getting together at minor games.

“It’s great to see it, it’s great camaraderie and it’s great to see them with their (Donegal) academy gear on and the uniformity of it so they’re very proud to be a part of it.”

Ward uses the example of last year’s minor captain Finbarr Roarty being called up to the senior setup by Jim McGuinness.

“It shows that there is a pathway there to get out of minors so that’s what guys are realising now, so there’s obviously that carrot in front of them,” said Ward, who lost to Armagh in the 1992 minor final before winning the u-21 title three years later.

While Armagh’s group was straightforward with the winner of their game with Derry topping the section, Donegal’s passage came down to the final weekend.

Had results gone the other way, Donegal could’ve missed out on the knock-out stages after losing to Down in Newry in their penultimate round.

“Every team in our group lost a game,” Ward said of their competitive campaign. Had Donegal lost to Monaghan in the final game there was the chance of slipping out on score difference.

“On the day, it just didn’t happen for us,” he said of losing to Down who he felt were a quality side.

“It was a lot of learning. Going in against Monaghan, we looked at the Down game in detail and we had to put a few things right. It really helped us during the Monaghan game, it gave us a few pointers where we needed to improve. It was a defeat but the main thing was we learned from it and we put the wheels in motion against Monaghan.”

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