MacNiallais making his mark

Odhran Mac Niallais celebrates scoring Donegal's first goal.  Photo PressEye

Odhran Mac Niallais celebrates scoring Donegal's first goal. Photo PressEye

He’s one of the new faces on the Donegal panel and Odhran MacNiallais is happy to admit that togging out in a dressing room packed with All Ireland winners can be pretty daunting.

But the young Gaoth Dobhair man is fast settling into his new surrounds. On Sunday he produced a quality display at half forward, capped by a superbly taken first half goal.

And even as the vast majority of the big crowd had exited O’Donnell Park, it seemed the player was happy to stay out on the pitch, to make the moment last that bit longer. That said, he was quick to deflect the few words of praise that came his way as the interviews got underway.

“Yeh, I was happy with the performance,” he said. “But at the end of the day, it’s all about the team’s performance. It’s great to get the two points today. That’s the third win in-a-row so it’s a great start.”

For MacNiallais the day was all the more special given that this was his first league appearance for Donegal on home soil. The MacNiallais and Mellett families were well represented in the main stand - his grandfather, the late Michael Mellett, no mean footballer for St. Eunan’s in his day, would surely have been proud.

“It was a big occasion - a big day for the family and the relations who live here and my granny too,” he said. “I’m sure they will be happy with that performance.”

MacNiallais is fast becoming an integral part of Jim McGuinness’s starting 15 but he insists that no player in the squad is guaranteed their place, especially at this early stage of the season.

“Nobody belongs on the team really,” he said. “It’s all about training hard, just to get a spot on the team but nobody’s guaranteed a spot. You just have to work hard in training and the work you do in training comes out on the field on match day. As long as you work hard, you’ll get results.”

So is there extra pressure on players like himself who are new to such an experienced squad? “It’s big time nerve-wracking,” he said. “But the boys around you are a big help in keeping you calm.

“They give you a word or two before the game to help you out but it definitely is nerve-wracking, especially when these boys have so much experience.

His goal was one of the highlights of the afternoon. “I got the ball and I looked up and saw the space,” he enthused. “I was going to take the point in the first place but once the space opened up I just thought I’d blast it in there and see what happens.”


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