By Diarmaid Doherty @dgldemocrat

Donegal's 2002 squad kick off their Kennedy Cup campaign in Limerick today with their opening Group 1 game against Carlow (2.30pm).

It's the first of three group matches in two days - Donegal play Wicklow on Tuesday morning (10.30am) and then Kerry on Tuesday evening (4pm).

Kerry won the Kennedy Cup last year and along with Donegal, they are the fancied team to qualify from this section.

But Donegal manager, Kevin McHugh, was refusing to look beyond this afternoon's opener when he spoke about his team's chances over the weekend.

“They're all big games in the Kennedy Cup,” he pointed out.

“You can't really afford to lose any game if you want to qualify as group winners.

“To get into the last eight of the competition, you must finish top of your group so there's no real room for any slip-ups.”

McHugh's is into his third season as manager of this current group.

It's a talented squad and they went all the way to the final of the SFAI Inter-League competition two years ago, only to lose on penalties to Waterford.

Last year, they were back in the final at U13 level and managed to beat the same opposition.

“It was almost Deja Vu,” McHugh said.

“We played on the same pitch, against the same team and with the same referee in charge.

“Thankfully the boys were able to put that penalty shoot-out defeat behind them by winning, which shows there's a bit of character about them.”

McHugh though, insists his involvement with the Donegal squad is not about how many trophies they can win.

“It's more about the players and how they are developing,” he said.

“If at the end of each season, you can say that these boys have improved as players and as individuals, you're doing something right.”

McHugh might not know all that much about Carlow and Wicklow, but he knows plenty of the threat posed by Kerry. The sides met in last year's Galway Cup tournament in a 3rd/4th place play-off which the Munster side won 1-0.

Donegal have never won the Kennedy Cup, a tournament that's been dominated by the Dublin and District Schoolboys League (DDSL) over the years.

Kerry's win last year denied the DDSL a fourth win on the trot and an 11th win in 12 years.


The following is the Donegal squad for the Kennedy Cup: Adrian Mc Laughlin (Bonagee Utd.), Calum Friel, (Letterkenny Rovers), Kyle McMullin (Swilly Rovers), Stephen Black (Kilmacrennan Celtic), Domhnall Mac Giolla Bhríde (Gweedore Celtic), Adam Mc Cafferty (Dungloe), Ronan Mc Kinley (Bonagee Utd), Frankie Campbell (Swilly Rovers), Jamie Grant (Kilmacrennan Celtic), Jack Murphy (Bonagee), Finian o Donnell (Bonagee), Jason Mc Daid (Drumkeen), Patrick Ferry (Gweedore United), Carlos O'Reilly (Kilmacrennan Celtic), Matthew McLaughlin (Swilly Rovers), Gerard Duffy (Letterkenny Rovers), Kieran Tobin (Bonagee), Conor Black (Kilmacrennan Celtic), Kyle Campbell (Eany Celtic), Ben Boyle (Keadue Rovers).

The backroom team includes Ruidhrí Higgins, Gary Crossan and Andrew Wilson along with physio, Tommy Harkin.