Donegal Ladies get their new season up and running when they entertain Laois, in the Tesco Ireland, Ladies National Football League Divsion One, on Sunday in Bundoran. (Throw-in 2 pm)
The game also marks a return to the manager’s hot seat of Hugh Molloy, Glenties. Hugh previosly held the position for a short spell three years ago, for the championship campaign of 2009.
He succeeds Micheal Naughton, who stepped down following last summer’s heavy defeat to Cork in the All-Ireland quarter final.
And while many of the old faces are still on board, Hugh, who has been highly involved at underage in recent seasons, has introduced a number of last year’s minor crop to what is a new-look Donegal squad.
Gemma McGlackin (MacCumhaill’s), Amber Barrett, Milford, Katie McLaughlin (Moville), Maeve Liston (Aodh Ruadh), Erica Hanna, Jade O’Donnell and Caroline Sharkey (all Noamh Mhuire) have all graduated from the U-18 ranks.
Familar faces Orla Carr,Ciara Hegarty, Grainne McCafferty, Karen Feeney, Kate Keaney,Roisin Friel, Kelly Wilson, Karen Guthrie, Katie Herron, Therese McCafferty, Roisin McCafferty, who has been appointed team captain, and Geraldine McLaughlin will once again backbone the Donegal challenge. The return, too, of Moville’s Niamh McLaughlin, has greatly enhanced Molloy’s options. McLaughlin has missed the last two campaigns with a double cruciate injury.
Another member of the experienced contingent, Eilish Ward, is also available once again having spent last summer in the U.S.
Roisin McCafferty has taken over the skipper’s armband from Aoife McDonnell who is currently on her travels Down Under in Australia.
“It is difficult with so many of the girls away in College, but we got a good bit of work done over the Christmas holidays when the girls were at home and we have been going two nights a week, Wednesday and Friday, since the start of the year,” explained Hugh Molloy.
“We have a panel of 28 in training and the girls have given a great commitment and despite the difficulties the girls are in good shape and there is a good spirit among the squad.” Donegal have warmed up over the last two weeks with challenge games with Sligo I.T, on Sunday week and Fermanagh last Sunday in Irvinestown. They drew with the Students and had a two point win over the Erne County.
No more than the men in Division One of the Allianz National Football, the top division in the ladies league also contains all the top teams with All-Ireland champions Cork, League champions Monaghan, Dublin, Mayo, Tyrone and Laois.
The fact that Donegal have only one home game - against Laois - means it is going to be a real baptism of fire for Molloy and his new look team.
“Its a tough league and the fact that we have only one home game makes it even more difficult. But that is the hand we have been dealt and we have very little choice but to go with it and to be honest, we are making no big deal about it.
“We are just going to get on with it and we aim to go out every week and work hard and play as a team and hopefully we will perform and get enough points to survive.
“We want to stay in Division One and that is the main objective to get enough points to do just that. But we are under no pressure, it is all about performance and building for the future and if we win, we win as a team and if we lose, we lose as a team. But I’m quietly confident that we will do enough to survive and with a bit of luck make the knock-out stages.”
Donegal won just one game last season against Kildare and that was enough to survive. They finished second from the bottom of the table, two points better off than the Lilywhites, who were relegated.
Laois, beaten league finalists in 2011, ended up mid table at the end of last year’s campaign with three wins from their seven games including a 3-12 to 1-3 victory over Donegal in Mountmellick.
Donegal panel:Eilish Ward, Aishling Cunningham, Alannah McDonnell, Amber Barrett, Anita Doherty, Anne Marie Logue, Bernie Cunningham, Caroline Kelly, Catherine Boyle, Ciara Hegarty, Deirdre Foley, Emer Gallagher, Erica Hanna, Geraldine McLaughlin, Grainne McCafferty, Jade O’Donnell, Gemma McGlackin, Rose Boyle, Shannon McGroddy, Karen Feeney, Karen Guthrie, Kate Keaney, Kath McLaughlin, Katie Herrron, Kelly Catterson, Kaneisha McKinney, Lorraine Molloy, Maeve Liston, Niamh Mailey, Nicole McLaughlin, Orla Carr, Orla Furlong, Petre McCafferty, Roisin Friel, Roisin McCafferty, Therese McCafferty, Sarah Faulkner.