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'Savage hunger' in Donegal to finally end their U21 final losing run in Ulster tonight

Donegal take on Derry in the Athletic Grounds.

EirGrid GAA Football U21 All-Ireland Championship Ulster Media Day Donegal's Lorcan Connor and Derry's Niall Keenan. Source: Ramsey Cardy/SPORTSFILE

DONEGAL HAVE “A savage hunger” to end a losing streak in underage deciders in tonight’s EirGrid Ulster U21 football decider against Derry, says forward Lorcan Connor.

The county was beaten in the 2013 and 2014 finals by Cavan, and the 2015 decider by Tyrone.

While some of the current Donegal squad are survivors of last year’s fiery provincial semi-final defeat by Tyrone.

With 14 players in the senior panel who impressed all spring in the league, they go into tonight’s final at the Athletic Grounds as warm favourites to end their series of near misses in this competition.

“It’s something we’ve been pulling towards since we met up at the start of the season,” Connor said.

“It has escaped us for four years or so and nobody wants to come up short again. We need to get over the line this time.

“Any time you get to a final you want to win but it’s really important that we win this U21 title.”

Dejected Luke Keaney after the game A dejected Luke Keaney after Donegal's 2013 Ulster U21 final loss.

Ryan McHugh dejected at the final whistle Ryan McHugh shows his disappointment after their 2015 Ulster U21 defeat. Source: Lorcan Doherty

Derry, bidding for a first provincial U21 title in 20 years, are backboned by the successful minor team who beat Donegal on the way to winning the Ulster title including Patrick Kearney, Shane McGuigan and Oisin Duffin.

They needed extra time to beat Armagh last Wednesday night while Donegal coasted to an easy semi-final win over Cavan, or at least that is how it appeared.

“The scoreline said it was easy but actually it was a very tough, physical game,” said Connor, who top-scored with six points.

“There is a lot of football played by a lot of our boys with five, six games in a relatively short space of time but it’s the same for Derry.

“I’m sure the hurt from being relegated in the league will be driving them on and they turned us over in 2015 at minor level, so we know what’s coming.

“It will be a stiff challenge. They will be defensive and try to shut us out and we’re definitely not under-estimating them.”

The final has been brought forward for 48 hours in order to give the winners an extra few days to prepare for an All-Ireland semi-final against Dublin on Saturday.

“We haven’t even thought about that, it’s miles away,” Connor said.

“The games are coming thick and fast but we definitely will not be using that as an excuse if we lose.

“You train at high intensity for one and half or two hours, so you should be able to play two games in five days. You can’t beat playing games.”

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Orla Bannon

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