Donegal need to get off to winning start

Donegal need to get off to winning start
Donegal begin their Allianz National Football League campaign with a home game against Derry in MacCumhaill Park on Saturday (7 p.m.)

Donegal begin their Allianz National Football League campaign with a home game against Derry in MacCumhaill Park on Saturday (7 p.m.)

It is a new beginning for the county with a new management team, but thankfully most of the great team of the last four years are still available.

The age profile is obviously getting a little higher, and because of that the game-time management of the side will be one of the factors that new manager Rory Gallagher will have to contend with.

However, with four home games, there is wriggle room to manage the welfare of the older players alongside the need to try and blood a few new faces.

The arrival of new talent such as Odhran MacNiallais and Ryan McHugh has been a good boost to the squad and Patrick McBrearty will have the opportunity to stake a permanent claim in the coming months. Hopefully, McBrearty has recovered from the niggly knee injury which has troubled him since the U-21 club championship final.

The upcoming campaign sees Donegal having three of their first four games at home - after the Derry game on Saturday, they are away to Dublin the following Saturday while on the first two Sundays of March, they have home games against Cork (in Ballyshannon) and Monaghan (in Letterkenny).

A week after that they travel to Tralee to take on Kerry and if they had six points on the board before the trip south, then they would be in a comfortable position. That has to be the target.

There will be other twists and turns (and injuries) along the way which may alter the situation. However, the careful management of the senior members of the panel has to be imperative given the tough nature of the senior championship draw for Donegal come the middle of May and that opening home game against Tyrone in MacCumhaill Park.

Before that Donegal and Tyrone will clash in the penultimate game of the league and that game has been pencilled in for MacCumhaill Park. That game should attract a bumper attendance and could include a bit of shadow boxing!

Donegal have got the year off to a reasonably good start with two wins out of three games in the Dr. McKenna Cup, largely with experimental teams.

The experimentation will be put on the back burner for Saturday next, but if Donegal could do well in their opening three home league games then they would have the chance to give others an opportunity to stake a claim.

As you can imagine, the new manager, Rory Gallagher, is looking forward to the challenge. He has been there when Donegal achieved success in 2011 and 2012 and now he gets the chance to make his own mark at senior intercounty management.

It is a big step up but he has earned his chance. He has a very good squad to work and hopefully Donegal will be challenging for league honours at the end of March, early April. But more importantly, Donegal need to be ready for that May 17th challenge with Tyrone.