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Bonner's on guard as Paul Doyle keeps faith

By John Campbell

It is a measure of the confidence that Armagh manager Paul Doyle has in his players that he has named an unchanged side for tomorrow's Ulster minor football championship final against hot favourites Donegal at Clones (2pm).

It is not often this year that the Orchard County has been in a position to name a team en bloc from a previous encounter, but the team's growing fluency, the absence of injuries and an enhanced belief have combined to make Doyle's selection task a straightforward one.

"I think that the team did exceptionally well to beat the Ulster title-holders Monaghan at the semi-final stage and the least they deserve is the chance to prove their worth in this final," says Doyle.

"Obviously Donegal have been the form side since the start of the year and their manager Declan Bonner has them in great fettle for tomorrow, but we are in good shape ourselves and if we can play with the commitment and the conviction we have shown lately I don't think we will be too far away."

Armagh provided the first hint that they might become a force in the championship when they overcame Cavan in their first game, but it was the win over fancied Monaghan that really signalled the team's arrival onto the radar.

Manager Doyle will tomorrow look to an attack in which skipper Caolan McConville, Oisin O'Neill, Kyle Mallon and Conor Grimley are key figures, to poach scores and to Jarlath Og Burns and Shane Conlon to garner quality possession in midfield.

Two burgeoning prospects, Aidan Rushe and Cahair McKinney, can underpin the Orchard County defence.

Donegal, meanwhile, will parade a cohesive, well-drilled and superbly fit side in which Lorcan Connors, John Campbell, Jamie Brennan and Eoghan Ban Gallagher are extremely smart marksmen.

Niall Harley is an inspirational skipper at midfield and Tony McClenaghan and Ciaran Gillespie are the twin pillars of a solid defence.

Manager Bonner, an All-Ireland winner with Donegal in 1992, has been meticulous in plotting his team's league and championship itineraries this term.

"We will be treating Armagh with the utmost respect tomorrow," said Bonner.

"Any team that can beat the reigning champions has to have a lot going for it."

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