We have plenty to be optimistic about in respect of Donegal football this season given that we sit on top of Division 1 of the National Football League along with Dublin and Monaghan.
Donegal has scored 5-29 to date and 1-14 against, a 19 points difference over Dublin. It is the best start to a season for Donegal that I can remember.
To date Donegal and Dublin seem to be the two best teams in the country given their respective performances and comparing them to what has been on show elsewhere in the country.
Although Mayo improved on their first outing against Cork they again fell short against Dublin last Saturday evening. Monaghan scraped by both Roscommon and Down in the first two opening games while Kerry have yet to register any points.
The most improved team is Roscommon who should have beaten Monaghan but beat Kerry away look dogged and sharp. At this stage Down look like a relegated team and Donegal and Dublin will contest the league final.
To be honest, Mayo are lacking that ‘killer punch’. Cork are poor travellers and do not believe in themselves. Monaghan is a good team but again lack enough quality to push for honours. Kerry is an aging outfit and is living on past glories. Roscommon should win the Connaught championship this year while Dublin could actually go unbeaten in the 2016 season. They seem to be operating at a different level than other counties. From a Donegal perspective we are right up there.
The lads head off to Tenerife now, not on a holiday but, on a week long winter training camp which has many benefits. The last time that I was in Tenerife was in January 1993 as a reward for winning the All-Ireland title in 1992. We trained on water slides and some of the lads even had press-up competitions in the islands bars!
We weren’t concerned about Vitamin D which is one of the main benefits of going to the sun. Those of us who live in the northern hemisphere do not get enough Vitamin D. For our elite footballers this deficiency can lead to sporting injuries. The vitamin does have the effect of improving muscle strength, speed, stamina and reaction time. In the warm weather the muscles are more pliable which reduces the risk of pulling or straining.
Although the attainment of Vitamin D is the main object of winter training there are psychological advantages too. Motivation for training in a comfortable warm climate is much easier that the cold and wet conditions which our lads experience night after night at home. Training away from normal routine, work plus other added responsibilities allows our players the space to refocus on their objectives and goals. Team bonding is an essential aspect of any group training regime.
When I was in Portugal with the Donegal team a few years ago in my capacity as Physical Therapist under the stewardship of Jim McGuinness I witnessed the benefits first hand. Believe me it was far from a holiday and the lads trained morning noon and evening. We were all glad to get home after the intensive period abroad. I know that the break to Tenerife will serve to boost the team in many respects and hopefully we will all reap the rewards come the championship.
The Ulster championship will once again prove a trying time for the Ulster teams. We have without doubt a stronger provincial championship than the others. It seems that to lose the first round game is more advantageous than to win as Tyrone proved last year.
The ‘back door’ system has its faults and this is certainly the main one. The system is there and until the GAA makes some radical changes to the current championship format we have put up with it. The prestige of winning a provincial championship is still highly sought after, especially in Ulster.
Rory Gallagher and his team will not want to concede an inch and that’s how it should be. As inferred at the outset, Donegal’s current form is on par with Dublin. Realistically there are only a handful of teams capable of beating Dublin. We are one of them. After a year of bedding in with the squad, Rory Gallagher has done an excellent job. It does take a period of time for a manager to impose his own personal methods and approaches in respect of training and tactics.
Rory and his Donegal team will want to keep players and supporters alike grounded and not get carried away with our two opening performances in the national league. If Dublin has a weakness then it could be the feeling of being invincible. Yes, the Dublin players are operating on a different level than most other counties and are on a high having recently won the All-Ireland title. No team is unbeatable though, not even Dublin. They have set the standard and it is up to the rest to get up there with them. Otherwise we will be left behind.
It is obvious that our Donegal team manager and county board have every intention of maintaining these standards. This is evidenced by the forthcoming training camp in Tenerife. My only advice to the lads is to stay away from the water park and the press ups!
LATE DOM BRESLIN
I was saddened to learn of the death of Dom Breslin of Donegal Town. Dom was a faithful Donegal supporter all his life. He was particularly generous to the various Donegal teams which passed through the doors down through the years of The Abbey Hotel while he was proprietor. I knew Dom very well and he was very good to me personally. I would like to extend my sympathies to his family, Michael, Úna, Vincent, Kathy, Petrina and Seamus. R.I.P. Dom