Donegal hurlers will be anxious to find the winning formula once again this Sunday when they go head to head to Monaghan in O’Donnell Park. (Throw -in 2 pm)
Ray Durack and his men are still licking their wounds after suffering their first defeat of the campaign against Roscommon, in Athleague, on Sunday last.
Donegal lost that game 3-11 to 0-15 after giving away three sloppy goals in a performance that did not please the boss. He found it even more difficult to fathom given the refreshing performances against Fermanagh in their opening game and against Longford in their previous outing two weeks earlier, in Pearse Park, Longford.
“The goals really killed us on Sunday. They were three really sloppy and soft goals. The first one came before half-time and gave them a couple points cushion at half-time and the other two were real blows also.
“The second in the middle of the second half gave them a little breathing space and after clawing our way back into the game and with a couple of points we conceded another in the closing minutes when we were still in with a chance.
“When you are up against a team like Roscommon in their own patch you cannot give away goals like we did last Sunday and hope to win.”
Despite the setback Donegal are still top the league table, on score average, from Roscommon, who are in second place with Monaghan third and Fermanagh in fourth.
All four have four points and theoretically are still in the mix for one of the two league final positions.
However, with just one round of games to come after this weekend, Donegal very much have their destiny in their own hands.
A Donegal victory against Monaghan on Sunday and a win away to bottom side Louth the following weekend and they are assured of the recious promotion play-off position.
“Sunday’s game is a must win game if we want to stay in the promotion race; it is as simple as that and I suppose it was always going to be that way after Monaghan beat Roscommon to go to four points.”
Monaghan bounced back from an opening day defeat to Longford to record a surprise four point win over Roscommon, a victory that was all the more surprising given that it was down in Roscommon.
And last Sunday, they overcame Louth by a single point, 0-15 to 0-11.
“Monaghan have got a couple of good results so far especially that win down in Roscommon. Really you never know what to expect from Monaghan; we have played them a good few times in recent years.
“And while we have a good enough record there is never much between us and they have beaten a number of times too.”
Donegal’s plan this week is to concentrate on their own game and work on the defensive frailties that showed up last week, in leaking three poor goals against Roscommon.
Keeping clean sheets has proved a problem for Donegal so far in the campaign. In the two games prior two last Sunday, they had already conceded four, one against Fermanagh and three against Longford.
“It is definitely something we are going to have to work on in training this week and iron out any problems we may have at the back.”
Kevin Campbell (’flu) and Jamsie Donnelly (back injury) are Durack’s only fitness concerns this week.
“Kevin had the ‘flu all last week and we had to take him off after just a few minutes down in Roscommon. Jamsie was complaining with a back problem and we had to replace him too.
“We will monitor them during the week before we make a decision. Hopefully, they are fit but other than that we have no other major concerns at this stage.”
Donegal were boosted last week by the return of Justin McGee, especially, in the absence of Marty Bonner, who is away on his travels for a couple of months.
After Sunday, all teams have one round to play. Donegal are away to Louth (who play Fermanagh, in Fermanagh this Sunday); Roscommon wrap up their campaign at home to Longford. And Monaghan are at home to Fermanagh.
Division 3A Table
P W L D F A Pts
1 Donegal 3 2 1 0 63 54 4
2 Roscommon 3 2 1 0 53 48 4
3 Monaghan 3 2 1 0 49 45 4
4 Fermanagh 3 2 1 0 58 56 4
5 Longford 3 1 2 0 51 56 2
6 Louth 3 0 3 0 50 65 0