Donegal are in a good place after Sunday’s win over Monaghan. Not alone are they a point clear but they are developing a stronger squad.
In terms of the goal of promotion, a win next Sunday and they could be able to clinch that spot against Louth in Ballyshannon - which would leave them with a comfortable trip to Armagh for the final league game.
Things are going well for Jim McGuinness and his new management team. The development of young players is a big plus with Odhran MacNiallais and Ryan McHugh excelling. Hopefully the likes of Darach O’Connor, Hugh McFadden, Marty O’Reilly and Luke Keaney will be afforded more game time now that Donegal have got the league off to a good start.
The management and the senior players must take credit for the development of so much young talent and it seems to be happening in a very controlled manner. The fact that Donegal are in Division Two is probably a help in this regard.
Odhran MacNiallais and Ryan McHugh were excellent on Sunday. MacNiallais lost one ball to turnover after scoring his goal, but apart from that his display was flawless; his first time volleyed pass for the final point was a stand-out moment. The pass went to Ryan McHugh who picked out Declan Walsh for a fisted point. It was poetry.
MacNiallais showed a real cutting edge when he cut through for the opening goal and his finish was top drawer.
Ryan McHugh was released from corner-back early in the Galway game and even after less than two games in the half-back line, seems to have made his mark. He is so comfortable on the ball, but also possesses an ability to seek out the defence-splitting pass.
While everything is going well, there are also pitfalls ahead, both on and off the field.
The Ulster U-21 Championship begins on Wednesday, March 19th with a home game against Fermanagh. The semi-final, should Donegal advance, is the following Wednesday night.
It is no secret that relations between the two managements are not over friendly. Maxi Curran and Rory Gallagher were part of the senior management last year before a parting of the ways in the autumn.
For the good of football in the county, it is imperative that any fallout from that parting does not affect the preparation of either team going forward.
The success of the Donegal seniors in winning their opening three games could be a blessing in disguise. A win on Sunday next against Meath would further help in the coming weeks. That would give Donegal eight league points and put the senior management in a position where they could use the U-21 panel members sparingly for the trip to Newry in Down the following Sunday.
Young Darach O’Connor, apart from being involved with the seniors and U-21s, has a McLarnon final date on St. Patrick’s Day, the day after the Donegal v Down NFL game and two days before the Ulster U-21 clash with Fermanagh. That’s a lot of pressure for an 18-year-old.
It is vital that common sense is used for the good of football in the county.
Apart altogether from county commitments, there could be trouble ahead on the club fixture front as the club championship dates have yet to be finalised with a meeting planned with the senior team management before the final decisions are taken.
With the increased number of club league games, the Competitions Control Committee have a real juggling act to perform, especially if they are to complete the programme and produce Donegal representatives for the Ulster Club Championship.
With the decision taken prior to Christmas that the club championship would not begin until Donegal exit the All-Ireland series, it is virtually impossible to put dates on the club championship. When will Donegal exit the championship? How long is a piece of string?
The Donegal CCC have to submit a fixture programme for approval to Ulster Council before the end of March. How can they put dates on the club championship when their hands are tied by their own Co. Committee?
How will the Ulster Council react to that?
That decision taken by the clubs to postpone the club championship may come back to haunt them.
It could also be a factor that could derail all the good work that has been done with the county senior team over the close season and in the first months of 2014.
That’s why it is important that issues relating to the relationship between the U-21s and seniors and the senior team management and club fixtures are sorted out for the good of all.
Let’s avoid any pitfalls and keep Donegal on this upward curve.