Donegal are chasing a first league win and two precious Allianz league points when they host Armagh on Sunday in O’Donnell Park. (Throw-in 2pm)
The Armagh tie is just one of two home games in this season’s league. The other is against Down on March13th.
Survival in Division 2B is the number one objective for new Donegal manager Ardal McDermott, despite Donegal’s poor record against the Orchard County, over the last decade and half, hopes are high that the men in green and gold can finally turn the tables on Sunday’s visitors.
This optimism is based on an encouraging performance against Mayo, albeit it ended in a four point defeat (1-14 to 0-13) in their opening game of the league campaign in Elverys McHale Park, Castlebar.
And that was after being down by eight points early in the second half and without the inspirational Danny Cullen and losing Christopher McDermott, who picked up two yellow cards early in the second period.
Donegal also finished the game without leading marksman as Lee Henderson was withdrawn with 15 minutes remaining.
“It was an encouraging performance especially in the second half when we were down to 14 and eight points down at one stage,” said Henderson, who was a big doubt before the game with a hip injury.
“I had a hip fleck injury for the last few weeks and I only trained on Thursday night for the first time in a number of weeks and my fitness level wasn’t up to 70 minutes.
“But I’m back training now and my fitness should improve over the next couple of weeks.
“Sunday’s performance was a good one when you consider we were without Danny Cullen, who tweaked a hamstring on Thursday night at training. The loss of Danny was a huge blow.
“But the young lads that came in did very well. Jack O’Loughlin had a very good game in the half-back line; Bernard Lafferty and Sam Doherty both came on and played well.
“We have some very good young hurlers coming through and that is why it is important to stay in the division. It is no disrespect to Fermanagh and Sligo, but these lads will only improve playing against better team like Mayo, Armagh, Down and Wicklow.
“We have a squad good enough to compete in Division 2B and even higher so it is important that we pick up enough points to stay in the division.
“We have the players and the management set-up so it is a matter of going out and putting in good performances and getting those one or two results to secure our status,” insisted the silken skilled Henderson, who is only 25, but is in his ninth year playing senior hurling for Donegal.
Donegal and Armagh are no strangers. They have met a number of times in recent years, both in the league and the Nicky Rackard Championship.
The last of those meetings was in last year’s league with Armagh emerging the winners at the Athletic Grounds in a game that Donegal deserved to be closer than the six points that separated the sides at the final whistle.
“We don’t have a great record against Armagh. I have been on Donegal teams that have beaten them a number of times at underage level all right. But it has been a different story at senior level. I think it is something like 15 years since we beat Armagh at senior but we have been close in the last couple of meetings.
“Hopefully we can change that on Sunday and finally come out on the right side of the result,” concluded the double Nicky Rackard All-Star winner.
Donegal are keeping their fingers crossed that Danny Cullen will have recovered in time and be fit to face the Orchard County.