Donegal begin their defence of the Ulster Ladies Senior Championship with up to half the team that captured that first Ulster senior title last July in America.
Among them are ace markswoman Geraldine McLaughlin, her sister Nicole along with Termon clubmates Laura and Emer Gallagher, Roisin McCafferty, Niamh McLaughlin, Kate Keaney and Aisling Cunningham all featured in last year’s 2-12 to 1-10 win over Monaghan.
Blathnaid McLaughlin, Gemma Glackin, Niamh Carr and Kaneisha McKinney, who were the members of last season’s squad have also departed to the US for the summer.
Donegal begin their defence against Cavan, in Killyclogher, Tyrone, on Saturday, throw in 5 pm. The second semi-final is also on Saturday evening in Killyclogher with Armagh taking on Monaghan. That game throws in at 7 pm.
Despite the mass exodus, Donegal manager Micheál Naughton is still upbeat about Donegal’s prospects of getting their defence of their Ulster crown off to a winning start.
“The girls are a huge loss. They are all quality players, but we still have a strong squad and we will be fielding a very strong and experienced team,” the Donegal boss insisted.
“We have Niamh and Ciara Hegarty, Karen Guthrie, Yvonne McMonagle, Deirdre Foley, Katy Herron, Grainne Houston, Roisin Friel, Eilish Ward, Amber Barrett, Kelly Wilson and Aoife McColgan, our young goalkeeper. They are all quality and experienced players and we have a number of good young players coming up from minor and U-16s.
Donegal have already tasted success this season by winning the Lidl Ireland Division Two League title at the beginning of last month.
Donegal defeated Westmeath 3-17 to 0-13 in the final to also clinch promotion to Division One next season.
Interestingly, Emer Gallagher, Therese McCafferty and Geraldine McLaughlin were the only members of the departed team that played in the league decider win over Westmeath.
Donegal and Cavan have met twice already this season.
The first of those meetings was in the league series where Donegal ran out comfortable 2-7 to 1-2 winners in Tir Chonaill Park, back at the beginning of April.
And the second meeting was the Division Two League semi-final at the end of April. Donegal won that game 0-13 to 0-6 with Geraldine McLaughlin posting 0-8, with only three of them from frees.
Donegal have trained three times a week since the league final and have had good workouts in recent weeks against Galway and Leitrim. They defeated Leitrim and lost by a couple of points to Galway.
“The preparations have gone well and we are happy that the girls are in good shape and looking forward to the challenge of defending their Ulster crown.
“We have a panel of 26 players and a few of them are carrying knocks and injuries and except for Shannon McGroddy, we expect to have everybody else,” said Micheál Naughton.
Donegal were due to train in Killyclogher last night, the venue for Saturday’s game.