Glen manager Enda Gormley will be relieved this morning as he puts the finishing touches together for Sunday's Ulster U21 semi final against Monaghan champions Magheracloone at Creggan (2.15).
The former MacRory Cup winner will have had his fingers crossed Conall Darragh, Conor Glass and Jack Doherty came through Maghera’s Quarter Final on Friday night unscathed and ready for the next step of their title defence.
The Derry champions used all their experience and composure to oversee a strong Clonduff challenge in their quarter final.
Ross Carr’s men hit Glen with all they had early on but the champions didn’t panic. Spearheaded by Ciaran McFaul’s leadership qualities they were soon back in the groove. It’s thecomposure that simply comes from playing on the big stage year in, year out.
With Paul Gunning’s accuracy in front of the posts and a fisted goal from Conor Glass it was back to business as usual. The Down men stuck to their task but a fortunate own goal helped Glen run out 2-11 to 2-5 winners.
Gormley’s hand has strengthened somewhat with long term injury victim Stevie O’Hara back in the fold.
O’Hara who played a full hour at midfield last Sunday for Derry U21s and will be chomping at the bit to get back.
His trademark left foot will be a useful tool if Gormley decides to mix things up with a long range scoring option.
Conall Darragh came of the bench against Clonduff and with two impressive MacRory performances under his belt, he's a useful option for tomorrow.
It’s highly unlikely that Ryan Dougan will be any closer to starting this week, the troublesome hamstring still hasn’t cleared.
Known for playing an entertaining brand of football, Gormley was more impressed by another aspect of Glen’s performance.
“I suppose the great thing is that they have a great mindset. We have it beat into them to play the game for sixty minutes. If you go four up not to carried away and if you go four down not to get carried away, just get playing the next ball.”
Magheracloone sprung somewhat of a surprise by dumping out Kilcar in the previous round (0-11 to 0-7) but without their county contingent; the Donegal hand was severely weakened.
“We were happy with the win but we’re not really taking a big pile out of it,” said club secretary James Finnegan.
The Monaghan champions are managed by James’ brother Paudie and former Monaghan half back Damien Freeman who like his opposite number Enda Gormley will steer the Mitchell’s senior team this year.
Monaghan minor goalkeeper Jack Kirk inspired his side with a first half penalty save against Kilcar.
County U21 panelist Alan McCaghey provided much of the cutting edge up front with support from county minor Paudie McMahon at wing forward.
After winning the coveted Mick Duffy Cup back in 2004, Magheracloone are now rebuilding as Finnegan explains.
“We had a good senior team about ten years ago but we took our eye off the ball at juvenile level. We are back working at it again and it’s our current minors who are the start of that.”
Their outing against Kilcar was Magheracloone’s only competitive championship game since winning the county title last July.
In contrast Glen’s season picked up momentum after their first round win over Slaughtneil in Derry.
With their talent pool and the greater experience it’ll be a surprise if the Wattys are not back in the final with a chance to defend the Paddy McLarnon Cup.