Let the games begin . . .

The wait for the Donegal defence of the Anglo Celt is over as they set the Ulster Senior Football Championship in motion this afternoon with Cavan the opponents in Kingspan Breffni Park (3.30 p.m.)

The wait for the Donegal defence of the Anglo Celt is over as they set the Ulster Senior Football Championship in motion this afternoon with Cavan the opponents in Kingspan Breffni Park (3.30 p.m.)

The target of putting two Anglo Celt’s back to back to back - something which has never been achieved by Donegal - is the task that lies ahead of Jim McGuinness and his panel.

They achieved something unique to Donegal last year - winning the Ulster title having had to play a preliminary round game, and they will have to repeat that this year.

This time last year they entertained Antrim in the opening game in Ulster in Ballybofey and were successful without setting the world on fire. But they built on that success in what turned out to be the best summer of football in Donegal since 1992.

Now, despite the downbeat mood in other aspects of life, there is a hope that the summer of 2012 can lift the spirits of Tir Chonaill once more.

What is different twelve months on is that the Donegal squad have acquired a confidence that comes with success. That confidence was shown in their final league game against Armagh when they needed to win and did so without two of their best performers - Michael Murphy and Neil McGee.

Today as they travel to Kingspan Breffni Park, they are still without their captain Michael Murphy and all of Donegal are hoping that the other players - especially up front - can step up and send Donegal to the quarter-final.

At the end of the day, that is all that today’s game is about - winning a preliminary round match.

Cavan go into the game with little expectation after being fortunate to remain in Division Three of the league and then having a player revolt which saw manager Val Andrews walk away.

The obvious replacement - Terry Hyland - who had led the Breffni men to two Ulster U-21 titles in-a-row, was put in place but the pressure is now on the Cavan players to step up after their revolt against Andrews.

It is likely that there will be a fair bit of fire in the Cavan bellies for today’s encounter and Donegal will have to match that, while at the same time retaining their discipline.

There is also the factor of the new ‘square ball’ rule with the forwards now allowed into the small rectangle after the ball is kicked, which could make for some exciting fare close to goal.

No surprises

When the Donegal team was announced towards the end of the week, there were no big surprises.

Neil Gallagher is named at midfield alongside Rory Kavanagh, who will be playing his 100th game in the county colours.

The Donegal defence is along expected lines with All-Stars Neil McGee and Karl Lacey manning the pivotal roles while Paul Durcan will once again be in goals.

Teenager Patrick McBrearty and Colm Anthony McFadden will lead the Donegal attack. St. Michael’s Martin McElhinney is named at wing half-forward with David Walsh at corner forward.

The Cavan team has five players - Kevin Meehan, Robert Maloney-Derham, Niall Smith, Jack Brady and Brendan Fitzpatrick - making their championship debut. However, all but Brady played during the league.

Donegal team: Paul Durcan; Paddy McGrath, Neil McGee, Frank McGlynn; Anthony Thompson, Karl Lacey, Leo McLoone; Neil Gallagher, Rory Kavanagh; Martin McElhinney, Mark McHugh, Ryan Bradley; Patrick McBrearty, Colm McFadden, David Walsh.

Cavan team: James Reilly; Padraic O’Reilly, Damien Reilly, Ronan Flanagan; Kevin Meehan, John McCutcheon, Robert Maloney-Derham; David Givney, Gearoid McKiernan; Fergal Flanagan, Mark McKeever, Niall Smith; Jack Brady, Eugene Keating, Brendan Fitzpatrick.