The National Football League commences this weekend which will be welcomed by all GAA followers most of whom have been hibernating this past four months.
There is a notable stretch in the evenings and so far we have escaped any serious adverse weather. For Donegal it seems like an eternity since our last serious competitive game. That was the game against Mayo in Croke Park last August when we surrendered our All-Ireland crown in a timid fashion.
Our performances in the recent McKenna Cup competition were adequate but, difficult measure given the multitude of absentees.
It is reasonable to assume that Donegal will be fielding much stronger teams in the forthcoming league. The defeat to Mayo is well behind Donegal now though many lessons will have been learned. Since then, Jim McGuinness has replaced most of his back room team plus taken new players into the squad.
Unfortunately, Donegal slipped into Division 2 of the National Football League last season. Our immediate priority is to regain premier status. Our first two games are crucial to achieving our goal. Laois and Galway will provide formidable opposition and as recent All-Ireland title holders our opposition will perceive Donegal as a major scalp to take.
Teams seem to raise their game when the prize is greater. Through the decades Donegal has always performed well in away games. We always had character strengthened by resolve to raise our own game when faced with stern opposition. Irrespective of tactics, team selection or team set up the values of the game coupled with individual courage inherent in our great game.
A long time ago, Brian McEniff told us before going out to face Dublin in Croke Park “go at them like the waves of Tory”.
Those words have been recalled in many dressing rooms since. I believe that we have to reinvigorate our passion after our disappointing season of 2013. Our lads played under intense pressure and scrutiny last year. Setanta Sports revealed their schedule of live games this week. We are conspicuous by our absence. I believe that this is a good thing because it deflects attention away from us. Donegal will be able to work diligently but quietly to attain our objectives.
We have always been the forgotten county and always will be. Geographically we are at the top end of the country where the Celtic Tiger couldn’t even reach. Our Ireland successes put us right at the centre of country’s attention but only briefly. We have a strong GAA community who yearn for national success for our senior football team.
Our successive intercounty footballers and managers have set high standards from themselves which has resulted in a certainly expectancy from our supporters. And why not? As mentioned, we have a healthy GAA organisation, an abundance of football talent and a proven manager. There is currently huge interest in this current intercounty team.
Our All-Ireland winning players of two seasons ago are all still very much involved. We have great cause for optimism given what we possess. Our two initial matches in the league are undoubtedly difficult. I still believe that we will have too much for both teams. Donegal is a team of winners who are used to success. A blip last summer does not equate to failure. We have an interesting season ahead where we should expect the usual drama and talking points. Donegal will be back to winning ways come Sunday. It has been a long wait.
Roscommon fan after the controversial 1980 All-Ireland final: Hi ref, how’s your dog?
Ref: What do you mean? I don’t have a dog.
Fan: That’s strange. You’re the first blind man I’ve ever met that doesn’t have a guide dog!
An Irishman was touring the USA on holiday and stopped in a remote bar in the hills of Nevada. He was chatting to the bartender when he spied an old Indian sitting in the corner with his tribal gear on, long white plaits, and an incredibly wrinkled face.
“Who’s he?” said the Paddy.
“That’s the Memory Man.” said the bartender. “He knows everything. He can remember any fact. Go on, try him out.”
So the Irishman goes over, and thinking that he won’t know anything about hurling, asks “Who won the 1996 Munster Semi Final played in the
“Limerick,” replies the Memory Man.
“Who did they beat?”
“Clare,” was the reply.
“And the score?”
“15 points to 1-13.”
“Who scored the winning point?”
“Ciarán Carey,” was the old man’s reply.
The Irishman was knocked out by this and, when he returned home he told all his friends and relatives about the amazing Memory Man.
Five years later he went back to the USA and tried to find the Impressive Memory Man again. Eventually he found the bar and there, sitting in the same seat, was the Indian, looking older and even more wrinkled.
The Irishman was delighted to see him, and, deciding to greet the Indian in his native tongue, approached him with the greeting “How”.
“Solo-run out of the half back line.” replied the Memory Man.