Kilcar, Gaoth Dobhair and St Eunan’s are Jimmy White’s front runners to get their hands on the Democrat Cup (Division One champions) ahead of the start of the new league season.
The Donegal All-County Football Leagues in Divisions One, Two and Three get underway this weekend.
Kilcar are the holders of the Democrat Cup after winning a second league title in three seasons at the end of last season.
Martin McHugh guided them to that league title but has stepped down and the club are currently in the process of appointing a replacement.
Kilcar were by far the best team in the league last season and yet only clinched the title on the last day of the league with a comfortable five point win over Naomh Conaill in Davy Brennan Memorial Park.
“I know Kilcar are going to have a change of management but they are still a good side,” said Jimmy White, a winner of three Division One League titles with Killybegs.
“They have quality players in Ryan, Mark and Eoin McHugh, Patrick and Stephen McBrearty, all with the county seniors.
“They also have Michael Hegarty and Ciaran McGinley and they have a couple of good minors from the last few seasons.
“If they have all their players, and I suppose with so many of them involved with the county that is going to be the problem for them. But if they can field their strongest team most weekends they are going to be the team to beat.
“Gaoth Dobhair and St Eunan’s are the other two teams that are capable of winning the league.
“Gaoth Dobhair, like Kilcar, a lot will depend on whether they can get their best team on the field most weekends.
“They have something like eight players involved at county level between senior and U-21 which is a serious amount of players.
“Neil McGee, Kieran Gillespie, Michael Carroll and Cian Mulligan are with the seniors alone.
“But on the plus side Eamon McGee, now that he has retired from the county scene, will be able to concentrate on the club.
“It will be the same for Odhran MacNiallais, who has opted out of the county squad. Odhran is a quality player and he scored something like 3-5 against Kilcar last week in the Gaeltacht.
“St Eunan’s are another strong side and they are one of those clubs that can lose a man or two to the county and still field a strong team.
“They have Rory Kavanagh, back and free from his county commitments. Rory still has awful to offer at club level.
“They didn’t seem to take the league all that seriously in recent years, but I gather under their new management of Eddie Brennan and Barry Meehan, they have put in a big preseason and are taking the league seriously.
“They are serious contenders.”
St Michael’s are Jimmy White’s dark horses for a second league title in three seasons.
“With Colm McFadden and Christy Toye retired from the county scene, they will be able to give their sole attention to the club.
“The clock is ticking for them, too, so they might want to give it a right good push in 2017 and use the league to build some momentum for the championship.”
Naomh Conaill is another team that Jimmy is not ruling out of the frame, but his main contenders are Kilcar, St Eunan’s and Gaoth Dobhair.
And for the rest, Dungloe, Glenswilly, Bundoran and newly promoted Four Masters and Milford, it is a case of consolidating their position and retaining their top flight status.
Division Two of the league is, Jimmy believes, the most competitive of all four divisions.
“There is very little between the teams in Division Two where you have ten teams, all of a pretty similar standard.
“You have MacCumhaill’s, Malin, Cloughaneely and newly promoted Aodh Ruadh as well Termon and Ardara - the two teams that were relegated from Division One, at the end of last year.
“They are my main contenders for the two promotion places. But I think it will boil down in the end to Ardara and Termon going back up.
“Ardara are down in Division Two for the first time and they will put in a big effort to get back up.
“As for Termon, they have a number of very good young players coming through and they have been up and down between Divisions One and Two in recent years and I expect that trend to continue this year.”
Jimmy White sees Division Three as a two horse race with Naomh Muire and St Naul’s his fancy for the two promotion places.
“Naomh Muire are a good side and I will be very surprised if they don’t go straight back up at the end of the season.
“They are a Division Two side. St Naul’s, too, are well capable of competing in Division Two and they have John McNulty managing them this season and I expect them to do well under John.”
Jimmy admitted other than Naomh Colmcille that he was not all that familiar with the teams in Division Four.
“I refereed Naomh Colmcille a few times the year before last and I thought they were a good side and I’m surprised to see them in Division Four.
“I would expect them to get promoted but after that I wouldn’t be sure about the rest.”