The McKenna Cup second round of games saw Rory Gallagher get his first competitive win when Donegal hammered Queens University in Ballybofey last Sunday.
The inclusion of team regulars Paddy McGrath, Odhran MacNiallais, Frank McGlynn and Christy Toye made all the difference to what is still very much an experimental side. With Derry and Dublin scheduled as our first two leagues games on the 31st January and 7th February respectively, I suspect that more of the regular squad members will be introduced in the remaining game/games of the McKenna Cup.
There were some odd results over the weekend with UUJ beating Cavan and Fermanagh beating Derry. Much further south Tralee IT beat Kerry in the McGrath Cup. These pre season competitions are obviously not treated with any amount of seriousness by many counties least of all Kerry. Their first team decided to go to South Africa and spend two weeks in one of the most beautiful countries in the world. The U-21 team represented the county in this pre season competition to date.
Thabo Mbeki who knows nothing about the McKenna Cup but who was vice chairman of South Africa under the presidency of Nelson Mandela spoke of South Africa in these terms, “I owe my being to the hills and the valleys, the mountains and the glades, the rivers, the deserts, the trees, the flowers, the seas and the ever-changing seasons that define the face of our native land.
My body has frozen in our frosts and in our latter day snows. It has thawed in the warmth of our sunshine and melted in the heat of the midday sun. The crack and the rumble of the summer thunders, lashed by startling lightning, have been a cause both of trembling and of hope.
The fragrances of nature have been as pleasant to us as the sight of the wild blooms of the citizens of the veld. The dramatic shapes of the Drakensberg, the soil-coloured waters of the Lekoa, iGqili noThukela, and the sands of the Kgalagadi, have all been panels of the set on the natural stage on which we act out the foolish deeds of the theatre of our day.
At times, and in fear, I have wondered whether I should concede equal citizenship of our country to the leopard and the lion, the elephant and the springbok, the hyena, the black mamba and the pestilential mosquito. A human presence among all these, a feature on the face of our native land thus defined, I know that none dare challenge me when I say - I am an African!” Don’t these words warm your heart on bitterly cold winter days such as these?
Yes South Africa. Packed with history, a diversity of cultures, comfortable warm and stunningly beautiful. I am biased of course since I have fortunately visited South Africa a few times.
These breaks for the All-Ireland winners and finalists are well deserved and an acknowledgement of the sacrifices made by all concerned throughout a gruelling season. As mentioned in a previous article, Donegal is going to Dubai on a short break in mid February. It’s a bit more reserved than South Africa but has fantastic shopping malls and boasts the tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa. It’s nonetheless interesting! One can even go skiing on man made snow in a complex housed within one of these shopping malls. Dubai too has some interesting and noteworthy laws. Sharia Law is applicable there.
And if you are not acquainted with Sharia Law, check it out on Google. For starters, limited displays of affection are fine, as long as it’s confined to holding hands and a peck on the cheek. Living with a girlfriend/boyfriend, to whom you are not related, nor married, is against the law and comes with a minimum jail sentence of one year, followed by deportation. We’ll not be there that long though! I don’t think any serious relationships will be formed in six days!
That said, we (Donegal team and backroom) had a brilliant time there at the end of 2012 through to the beginning of 2013. There were limited displays of affection, no holding hands but fortunately interrupted occasionally with the odd peck on the cheek!
The players trained most days and were rewarded with a long dip at the infinity pool afterwards. Donegal and Kerry do not have to take their respective pre season competitions seriously since both counties are safe enough in the knowledge that come the August bank holiday they possess the quality necessary to be in the hunt for All-Ireland glory.
Our immediate focus will be the National Football League and maintaining our top flight status. As beaten finalists last September we are rated number two team in the country. With no confirmed retirements, Donegal will commence their season proper on Saturday 31st January in good stead. Let’s hope we can go one better this season.
Keep the faith!