Donegal get the ball rolling in Laois

Donegal get the ball rolling in Laois
Donegal get the new season up and running in earnest this weekend when the 2012 All-Ireland champions face Laois, in Portlaoise.

Donegal get the new season up and running in earnest this weekend when the 2012 All-Ireland champions face Laois, in Portlaoise.

The game is in Division Two of the Allianz National Football League and is the first of seven games in all, with four away and three at home.

The other teams in Division Two are Galway, Ulster champions Monaghan, Meath, Down, Louth and Armagh. Monaghan, Meath and Louth are the home games with the Monaghan game in O’Donnell Park, Meath in Sean McCumhaill Park and Louth in Fr Tierney Park.

In what is a hectic schedule Donegal will be play seven games in a nine week period beginning on Sunday next and ending on April 6th against Armagh in the Athletic Grounds.

Donegal, who were relegated from the top division at the end of last season, have warmed up for the new league season with a couple of challenge games pre-Christmas and three ties in the Dr McKenna Cup since the turn of the year.

They beat Fermanagh and Roscommon well in challenge games while in the Dr McKenna Cup they won two and lost one.

They went down by three points, 0-13 to 1-7 to Tyrone, in O’Donnell Park. They defeated Armagh 1-10 to 0-11 in an all-round workmanlike if unspectacular performance. Against Queens they had 12 points to spare at the finish as they ran out 3-17 to 3-5 winners. The worrying stat from that game was the three goals conceded against what was a lightweight Students attack.

Jim McGuinness used 26 players in the McKenna Cup and by and large fielded fairly strong and experienced teams in all three games with between seven and eight of the 2012 All-Ireland winning team featuring.

Among those were long term injured Karl Lacey, David Walsh and Christy Toye. Toye came off the bench in the second half against Queens, while Lacey started against Armagh and the Students. Walsh also returned as a replacement in the Athletic Grounds and was also introduced in Ballybofey against Queens.

Squad players Michael Boyle, Eamon Doherty, Thomas McKinley, Antoin McFadden, Leon Thompson, Gary McFadden, Odhran MacNiallais, Stephen McLaughlin and Darach O’Connor also saw game time in recent weeks.

Of this group, MacNiallais and O’Connor made an impression while Gary McFadden did well when introduced against Armagh.

Patrick McBrearty, Martin McElhinney, Mark and Ryan McHugh and Luke Keaney, who were all College tied or injured for the McKenna Cup, return for the league.

And with most of the injuries having cleared up it will be the best foot forward for Jim McGuinness and Donegal on Sunday next in O’Moore Park.

The Donegal team is expected to be named later in the week.