By Michael McMullan
DONEGAL minor manager Luke Barrett’s new target is making the knock-out stages of the championship after watching his side annex the Ulster League title on Saturday.
After leading 0-5 to 0-2, Donegal shipped seven Derry points without reply before needing points from Shane Callaghan a late winning goal from Eoghan Scott.
This year’s minor crop were the first group of players to have passed through from the Academy, under Karl Lacey’s direction, and Barrett hopes it can give the county boost on all fronts.
“We have done a good bit of work, they are a nice group of players and a nice mix from last year,” said Barrett, a son of 2016 Ulster minor winning manager Shaun Paul.
“They have bought into the whole ethos of developing and I think every player and every team has to do that.
“I am delighted for them. It is a difficult time for Donegal football and hopefully it is a boost for the teams around us and all teams have a good run in the championship to start moving things forward.”
Barrett spoke of the Donegal mantra of rolling up the sleeves for the benefit of the overall collective, something the management have been drumming into their charges at training.
“It is always about playing for the team in every situation and about making the right decision for the team.
“To be fair, they did that in spades today (against Derry) and showed real courage towards the end, with a bit of reckless abandonment to go after it. I am fierce proud of them, I am very proud of the efforts.
Derry came into Saturday’s final on the back of an unbeaten run including heavy defeats of Antrim and Down, with Barrett present at the latter in Owenbeg.
“They (Derry) played and dominated games well, we felt confident we could compete with them as well.
“We brought it right down to the end and we were fortunate, we spotted that the ‘keeper was in a bit of bother.
“There were chances at either end, but we are happy to come out on the right side of it.”
The Donegal camp were disappointed to just hold a one-point lead (0-5 to 0-4) at half-time with Barrett feeling they had only themselves to blame for conceding “two handy” scores.
“We have a lot of confidence in these boys and they know what they are about. They are buying into the team ethos and we preached that it would go right to the end no matter happened, fair play to them they dug out.”
Looking ahead to the championship, Donegal host Fermanagh in the first game of a group that includes Down, Derry and Monaghan with the bottom team failing to make the quarter-finals.
Barrett was unsure about how his management team felt about it and points to the first three games falling in a 10-day period.
“That’s a real test,” he said. “We have Fermanagh, then (Down in) Newry on Wednesday followed by Derry.
“Our main objective, first and foremost, is it to get into the knock out stages and we’ll deal with it from there. Each game has its own merits, but we’ll be preparing for Fermanagh.”