Donegal returned from their winter break in Dubai on Friday and went straight back into preparing for next weekend’s Allianz League clash with Cork.
Manager Rory Gallagher, who was not on the team holiday, put his squad through their paces on Saturday afternoon as they turned their attention to the Rebels and their meeting with the early pacesetters in the league in Fr. Tierney Park.
Following their five point defeat to Dublin last time, Donegal will be anxious to find the winning formula once again this weekend against the Munster men.
The Dublin game was a game many people felt that Donegal should have won against a largely understrength Dublin, who only fielded a handful of regulars.
But a late goal and point from substitute Jack McCaffrey sealed the win for the Dubs, who played most of the second period with 14 men after they lost Kevin McManamon to a red card shortly after half-time.
Donegal had gone into the game brimming with confidence on the back of a six point 1-15 to 0-12 victory over Derry, in Ballybofey, seven nights earlier in their opening game of the league.
Odhran MacNiallais scored the goal in the middle of the second half in MacCumhaill Park, as Donegal confirmed their superiority over the Oak Leafers with a six point 1-15 to 0-12 victory.
Patrick McBrearty and Michael Murphy posted five points each with Christy Toye, Martin O’Reilly and Martin McElhinney also getting their names on the scoresheet against Derry.
McBrearty and Murphy scored eight points - four each - against the Dubs. In the two games to date Gallagher has fielded strong selections in both games.
Paul Durcan, Paddy McGrath, Eamon McGee, Frank McGlynn; Ryan McHugh, Karl Lacey, Neil Gallagher, Christy Toye, Odhran MacNiallais, Patrick McBrearty and Michael Murphy from last year’s All-Ireland team have featured both against Derry and Dublin.
Mark McHugh from the 2012 All-Ireland winning team also played in both games, The Dublin game also marked returns for Neil McGee and Colm McFadden. They were both introduced off the bench last time out in Croke Park.
While the bulk of the Donegal squad spent the last week in Dubai those not able to make the trip and new additions to the squad trained away and also played two challenge games in the past week. Last Sunday, a selection that included regulars Paul Durcan and Mark McHugh, defeated a Fermanagh second string by two points in Ballyshannon. And midweek much the same team had a good win over a Longford selection.
Cork with wins over Dublin and Monaghan are the early and somewhat surprise pacesetters in the division and top the table on four points. After a disappointing 2014, the general consensus was that the Leesiders would struggle in 2015.
But manager Brian Cuthbert seems to have turned things around as is evident by their 1-15 to 0-16 win over Dublin in Pairc Ui Rinn and their one point victory over Monaghan. That win over the Farney County is all the more laudable in that it was played out in Castleblaney.
Colm O’Neill has been their hot-shot forward and has already clocked up 2-11 from two games. O’Neill hot five points the first day out against Dublin and followed that with 2-6 against Monaghan.
Sunday’s game marks the 18th meeting in the league between the two counties with Donegal having the better of the record. In the 17 meetings so far Donegal have won 11, with Cork winning five and one game ended in a draw.
The first of those meetings was the 1952 National League semi-final meeting in Croke Park while the counties last crossed sword in the league was in 2013 in Pairc Ui Rinn. Cork won that game 0-12 to 0-10.
The Rebels will not have fond memories of their last visit to Fr Tierney Park. That was in March 2012, and Michael Murphy kicked a goal and three points - the goal scored inside 12 seconds - as Donegal recorded their first win of the campaign with a 1-7 to 0-6 victory.