Donegal are back in action following last weekend’s defeat to Cork when the make the trip on Sunday to Kildare to face the Lilywhites, in Ballykelly (Monasterevin, throw-in 2 pm)
While last week’s opener against Cork ended in defeat it was an encouraging performance against the champions.
Sunday’s encounter is the first of two away games - Donegal’s only two games away from home - the other is against Laois the following weekend.
And with four home games to follow, manager Michael Naughton is eyeing two points from Sunday’s outing as part of his aim for a place in the knock-out stages.
After last Sunday’s spirited showing against the double champions the manager certainly would seemed to have something to build on and a semi-final place - the same as last season - should not beyond what is in essence a new look Donegal outfit.
“I know we lost on Sunday, but I was very encouraged by the performance and with a bit of luck could have caused a huge upset. We were in the game right up to the closing minutes and if Geraldine McLaughlin’s shot that came back off the crossbar had hit the net in the closing minutes it might have been a different outcome altogether,” said Naughton.
“We are certainly heartened by the performance and it will boost confidence heading to Kildare this weekend. If we could pull off a win this weekend it would set us up rightly for the rest of the league and we would be in with a realistic chance of making the last four.”
In the absence of a number of big name first choice players from last season, Naughton blooded a number of young players and Laura Gallagher, Niamh Friel, Ciara D Shovlin and Treasa Doherty all stepped up to the mark in a big way.
Laura Gallagher turned in a big performance in goal while Niamh Friel did not put a foot wrong at centre half-back and Treasa Doherty and Ciara D. Shovlin had good debuts against one the top defences in the game.
The experiment of playing regular ‘keeper Roisin McCafferty at midfield, Ciara Hegarty at full-back and Karen Guthrie at full-forward also worked a treat with all three making a big impression with McCafferty, in particular, forming a good partnership with Aoife McDonnell in midfield.
Donegal are boosted by the return of Karen Feeney, who was unavailable last weekend. Feeney was first choice last season in the half-forward line and her return strengthens Naughton’s options.
However, given the performance against Cork, the Donegal boss is expected to keep changes to the starting fifteen to the minimum.
If Donegal can repeat last Sunday’s performance this is a game Donegal can most definitely win, but they must be wary of a Kildare backlash from last Sunday’s whipping by Dublin.