A good start to the campaign for Donegal

A good start to the campaign for Donegal

With all the talk in the last few weeks about the up and coming general election, the start of the Six Nations championship and the up and downs of the Premiership, the National Football Leagues haven't been top of everyone’s priority list.

Christmas and the new year have only passed and already the National League is up and running. Donegal got off to a great start with a comprehensive win over a Down team who struggled to find their feet.

Donegal, from the very start, were way ahead. They looked stronger, fitter, sharper and hungrier for the ball. They knew exactly what they were about and what they needed to do to get over the line.

Rory and the Donegal management have, from the start of the year, given plenty of young lads the opportunity to play at this level. It’s also a good idea to get them used to playing with the more experienced lads so they can pick up a bit of know-how that can improve them for the future.

It will take a few games to know exactly where many of the Donegal lads are at. Very little can be taken from the Down game because I think they will struggle with the pace and strength of many of the Division One sides.

Michael Murphy was back to his old self and looking very sharp from placed balls. Ryan McHugh, running from deep, and his ability to join into attack and take his score, is a huge asset going forward,

Eoin McHugh's pace and ability to take on his man will give Donegal further options. Ciaran Thompson looked at ease in these surroundings, his performances for Naomh Conaill in last year’s club championship were up there with the best of them and given time, he will cement his place in the first fifteen.

Cork in Ballyshannon next Sunday will be a sterner test after their comprehensive win over Mayo last Sunday. With a new management team in place, they will want to continue to improve and give their supporters something to shout about after the disappointments of the last few years.

If there was one thing that did disappoint me in the last few weeks with the county senior team, it was the fact that Kilcar did not have their U-21 players when participating in the Ulster club U21 championship.

Now the Kilcar club don’t need me to fight their case or indeed neither do the three players involved. But it set a very dangerous precedent, especially in a time where clubs are being very firmly put to the back of the class by their intercounty masters.

I am sure there are many disappointed with what happened, but are maybe reluctant to say anything. But when did a challenge match become more important than a club championship game? Is this something that we are going to become more accustomed to? Will it soon happen that once a player is called up to the county squad, minor, U-21 or senior, they are county players first and foremost and club players whenever it suits their managers to release them?

Why didn’t the county executive get involved in this? Who is going to stand up for the club if when something like this happens in the future, the silence is deafening.

The times are certainly changing but I am not sure it is for the best. In a time when we hear the same old rhetoric from the authorities that run this great organisation, nobody, it seems, is interested in standing up for the club or the club player.

They might say they are, but they're not.

Can you imagine how disappointed and frustrated club players get when situations like this happen. Is it any wonder many have decided to go to different sports or bale out altogether?

Meanwhile, it seems that if you play in Division Four of the National League and you fail to win in the first round of your provincial championship, then you are no longer welcome in the All-Ireland qualifying system.

Those in Division Four may now be sent to a greater and just as important B championship. Maybe I missed something here but wasn’t that the reason the back door system was set up in the first place - to give the lesser teams the opportunity to have another chance? It seems not. The competition was set up to give the stronger sides a second chance.

When we listen to officials talk about how the GAA is about all, and how everyone is equal, I guess they were not talking about the true heroes of the games - those who go out training week after week, play in league and championship games knowing in their heart of hearts, that they will never reach the Promised Land.