INPHO/Kieran Murray Cork's Mark Collins and Mark McHugh of Donegal have both made the jump from U21 to senior level.
Products from U21 grade boost Donegal and Cork
Both Jim McGuinness and Conor Counihan have drawn on their respective county’s successful U21 teams from recent years to shape their sides for next Sunday’s All-Ireland semi-final.

JIM MCGUINNESS WILL freely extol the virtues of the U21 grade.

It was there that he cut his managerial teeth at inter-county level with Donegal, presiding over the team that reached the All-Ireland final in 2010 and also at the helm last year where they lost out in the Ulster semi-final against Cavan. Those campaigns have helped him develop his own managerial style as well as forming the side that will contest next Sunday’s All-Ireland senior semi-final.

From the team two years that just fell short of All-Ireland U21 honors against Dublin in Kingspan Breffni Park, Paddy McGrath from Ardara was left corner-back, Kilcar’s Mark McHugh was right half-forward, Glenswilly’s Michael Murphy was centre-forward and Naomh Conaill player Leo McLoone was full-forward. That quartet all start in the 2010 decider while also on that team were Tommy McKinley (Naomh Colmcille) and Dermot Molloy (Naomh Conaill) who were both part of the 26-man senior panel that defeated Kerry in the recent All-Ireland quarter-final.

2010 All-Ireland U21 final - Dublin 1-10 Donegal 1-8
Donegal - P Boyle; E Doherty, C Boyle, P McGrath; D Walsh, T McKinley, C Classon; K Mulhern, D Curran; M McHugh (0-1), M Murphy (0-2, 0-1F), D Molloy (0-5, 0-4f); J Carroll, L McLoone (1-0), A McFadden. Subs: C Morrison for A McFadden (28), D Murphy for T McKinley (28), C McGinley for J Carroll (53), S OKennedy for D Curran (67).

McGuinness’s opposite number next Sunday has also benefitted from U21 triumphs. Cork boss Conor Counihan did not make the management jump from U21 to senior level yet he has profited from the excellent work of Tony Leahy in 2007 and John Cleary in 2009 as they steered Cork to All-Ireland titles. From the 2007 side that defeated Laois in the final in Semple Stadium, corner-back Ray Carey (Clyda Rovers), full-back Michael Shields (St Finbarr’s), wing-back Eoin Cadogan (Douglas), midfielder Fintan Goold (Macroom), wing-forward Paul Kerrigan (Nemo Rangers) and corner-forward Colm O’Neill (Ballyclough) all started in the recent senior quarter-final victory over Kildare.

While amongst the senior substitutes were the goalkeeper from that U21 team Ken O’Halloran and the full-forward Daniel Goulding. The wing-forward on that U21 outfit Fiachra Lynch was a member of the Cork panel earlier in the year.

2007 All-Ireland U21 final – Cork 2-10 Laois 0-15
Cork – K O’Halloran; R Carey, M Shields,
K Harrington; S O’Donoghue (0-1), D Limerick, E Cadogan; F Goold, A O’Sullivan; F Lynch (0-1), C Keane, P Kerrigan (0-1); C O’Neill (1-1), D Goulding (1-6, 0-5f, 0-1 ’45), S Cahalane. Subs: R Leahy for Cahalane (41), S McCarthy for Lynch (56), G O’Shea for Keane (56).

Two years later Cork were once more successful at U21 level when they defeated Down in the All-Ireland final in Portlaoise. From that team the centre-back Aidan Walsh, wing-forward Ciaran Sheehan and corner-forward Colm O’Neill all started in the recent senior victory over Kildare. Current senior substitutes Mark Collins and Conor O’Driscoll played on that U21 team at centre-forward and right half-back respectively, while James Fitzpatrick and Barry O’Driscoll came on as as substitutes in that game.

Jamie O’Sullivan, who was introduced during the victory over Kildare, would have been involved with that U21 team only for injury at the time while current panelist Sean Kiely was also similarly sidelined. The full-forward on that U21 team David Goold is unavailable for Counihan’s senior squad this year due to a torn cruciate ligament.

2009 All-Ireland U21 final – Cork 1-13 Down 2-9
Cork - A Seymour; J McLoughlin, L Jennings, N Galvin; Conor O’Driscoll, A Walsh, B Daly; C O’Donovan, K O’Driscoll; C Sheehan, M Collins (0-2), Colm O’Driscoll (1-0); C O’Neill (0-5, 0-2f), D Goold (0-5, 0-3f), P Honahan. Subs: J Fitzpatrick (0-1) for Sheehan (32), B Lombard for Jennings (49), B O’Driscoll for Honahan (62), L McLoughlin for K O’Driscoll (62).

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