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6 Donegal and Tyrone players to watch in tonight's Ulster U21 football final

Celtic Park in Derry is the venue for the EirGrid Ulster U21 decider.

Rival captains Ryan McHugh (left) and Kieran McGeary are dreaming of Ulster U21 glory
Rival captains Ryan McHugh (left) and Kieran McGeary are dreaming of Ulster U21 glory
Image: Presseye/Darren Kidd/INPHO

Donegal:

1. Lorcan Connor

CONNOR IS A graduate from the Donegal team that contested last year’s All-Ireland minor final against Kerry. And the blood-line is strong as Lorcan’s father Kevin ‘Cookie’ Gallagher won an Ulster minor title in 1991, while uncle John Connor also lined out for the county’s minors in the early 90s.

Connor’s two goals were vital in Donegal’s Ulster U21 semi-final victory over Monaghan. The Downings clubman has already fulfilled his ambition of stepping up to the U21 ranks and he’s also targeting a successful senior career in the years to come.

Lorcan Connor celebrates scoring a point Lorcan Connor celebrates scoring a point against Dublin in last year's All-Ireland minor semi-final Source: James Crombie/INPHO

2. Ciaran Thompson

When the dust settles on this year’s U21 competition, Ciaran Thompson could well have made one of the most influential contributions. Because it was the Naomh Conaill man who set up the priceless winning goal scored by Ryan McHugh in Donegal’s Ulster quarter-final victory over Cavan.

Thompson went on to score 1-2 in Donegal’s comfortable semi-final victory over Monaghan and he will be desperate to atone for last year’s final defeat to Cavan.

Ciaran Thompson and Callum Cumiskey 2/4/2014 Ciaran Thompson in possession during last year's Ulster U21 semi-final against Armagh Source: Presseye/Andrew Paton/INPHO

3. Ryan McHugh

McHugh is the 2014 Young Footballer of the year whose amazing rise to fame continues apace. In the Ulster quarter-final victory over Cavan, captain McHugh scored a late winning goal having earlier had a penalty saved by Breffni netminder Mark Fagan.

McHugh famously announced himself on the national stage with those two goals against Dublin in last year’s All-Ireland senior semi-final. And McHugh helped Donegal to last Sunday’s crucial draw with Mayo, as the Ulster champions booked their place in the Division 1 Allianz Football League semi-finals.

Ryan McHugh Senior star Ryan McHugh will captain Donegal's U21s against Tyrone Source: Presseye/Darren Kidd/INPHO

Tyrone: 

1. Sean Fox

Highly-rated goalkeeper Sean Fox has already tasted senior League action this year, having come on as sub against Donegal when Niall Morgan was injured. And Fox has already shown his pedigree in the U21 campaign, pulling off one memorable save against Armagh in the recent semi-final to keep out Ryan McShane’s fierce drive.

Ex-Omagh CBS MacRory cup netminder Fox is a former Ulster Colleges Allstar and he was goalkeeper for the Tyrone minors in their march to the 2013 All-Ireland final.

Diarmuid Murtagh with Rhys Quinn and Sean Fox Sean Fox denies Roscommon's Diarmuid Murtagh in the 2013 All-Ireland minor semi-final Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

2. Lee Brennan

Last year, Lee Brennan made history when he became only the second ever player to pick up three consecutive Ulster Colleges Allstar awards – and the first to claim all three in the same position. The Trillick man is another survivor from the 2013 Tyrone minor vintage and he scored 0-4 against Mayo on that occasion, including three frees.

Brennan’s brother Rory captained the St Michael’s (Enniskillen) team that contested the 2012 Hogan Cup final, before Lee himself went on to skipper his school team. Brennan has also had soccer trials with Everton and Preston.

Lee Brennan Lee Brennan has had soccer trials at Everton and Preston Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

3. Kieran McGeary

Attacking half-back McGeary scored two points against Armagh in the Ulster semi-final before he was sent off late on for a second yellow card. The Pomeroy player was man of the match in the 2012 Ulster minor football final victory over Monaghan and he was also the star player for Holy Trinity Cookstown when they defeated Tyrone rivals Ballygawley in the 2013 Ulster Bank Markey Cup final.

Tyrone’s U21 captain McGeary has a habit of producing big performances in big games and Tyrone will need him at his best in the final at Celtic Park.

Kieran McGeary Skipper Kieran McGeary is targeting a first Ulster U21 crown for Tyrone since 2006 Source: Presseye/Darren Kidd/INPHO

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About the author:

Jackie Cahill

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