Donegal get their Allianz National League Division 3A campaign underway this Sunday with an away game to Monaghan, in St. Tiernach’s Park, Clones. (Throw in 2.30 pm).
Sunday’s game is one of five games Donegal have in the league and the first of three away games. This weekend’s opener is followed by Tyrone and Sligo at home - both games in O’Donnell Park - and Louth and Fingal away.
Donegal have a new management made up of with former county star and Burt clubman Ray Durack, who is the manager and has Marty McGrath, Burt and Paddy Carlin, St. Eunan’s as his mentors. Galway man Durack takes over Andrew Wallace who stepped down after two years in the job.
While the new manager was only appointed in the middle of last month he is happy with the level of preparation and the squad of players available to him.
However, he has to plan without regulars from the last few season Colm Breathnach, Paddy Hannigan, Paul O’Brien and Mickey McCann, who have opted out of the squad for the moment though the manager is not ruling anyone out of his plans later in the season as the championship approaches.
Burt’s Ciaran Dowds, who made a dramatic comeback last summer to play a significant role in Donegal’s run to Lory Meagher Cup success, has also opted out once again.
Setanta’s Kevin Campbell, who opted out last season, has returned while Danny Cullen, currently in Australia, is due home next month and should be available for the latter stages of the league.
“Preparations have gone well enough even if we were six weeks behind everybody else in getting down to business. We have trained at least once a week since we returned , but with club games and club training it has been difficult to get any more work done, though in fairness the lads are all in good shape and Adam Speer has been working on strength and conditioning with them,” said Durack.
“We have a good squad of players. Kevin Campbell is back and Danny Cullen will be joining the squad as soon as he returns from Australia, and we also have a number of good minors from Setanta in Shane Gallen and Justin Browne making the step-up to senior hurling.
“We are hoping to get off to a good start on Sunday and retain our position in the league and build a team in the championship. We are playing in the Nicky Rackard this season and face Roscommon in the first game so by the time that comes around we hope to have a good league campaign behind us and have everybody back.”
With Louth and Fingal rated as the two top teams in the division and a step ahead of the rest, Donegal’s meeting’s with Monaghan and Tyrone are the big games and are definite four pointers. And with one team making the drop to Division 3B at the end of the league Donegal need to take something from those games especially Sunday’s encounter with the Farney men.
Durack will name his starting team after training on Friday night.