Perhaps the fact Donegal seemed to get heavy-legged yesterday in the second half against Tyrone is a good sign for the season ahead.
Whereas this time last year the All-Ireland winning panel had yet to touch down from their end-of-season junket in Dubai, yesterday there was no sign of a suntan in sight under the grey skies of Letterkenny.
The hosts led 1-5 to 0-5 at the interval having played against the wind, with Michael Murphy having rammed a goal past Niall Morgan after the Tyrone goalkeeper had earlier saved the skipper’s penalty.
“We played good football in periods but it wasn’t what you would call championship intensity from both teams,” McGuinness said afterwards.
“We fatigued badly towards the end there but we’ve a bit of work done there in the last three or four weeks so it was a chance to get some game time.
“There’s a difference in the level of fitness and the level of match-fitness and that’s what they got today and that’s that they will get next week.”
McGuinness gave Darach O’Connor of Buncrana his first competitive start, while Odhran MacNiallais from Gaoth Dobhair and Eamonn Doherty were given opportunities to shine.
Otherwise, it was a relatively experienced Donegal team, which contained eight players who started the 2012 All-Ireland final win.
“We played an established team but that’s because we have had such a long break,” said McGuinness, who asked to clarify his variance in approach when compared with the last three seasons in the Dr McKenna Cup.
“A lot of them had rehabs and operations so they want to get back out and build a level of fitness before the league starts. We wanted to give them a chance to do that. But it’s good to get the ball rolling”
Martin O’Reilly left in an ambulance having picked up concussion and was expected to spend last night at Letterkenny General Hospital.
Otherwise, McGuinness’s injury list remains as it was.
“Paddy McGrath (Gilmore’s groin) is back fully training but not doing the ball stuff so will be a few weeks,” McGuinness added. “Neil McGee (knee) will be a few weeks, Karl Lacey (hamstring) maybe a week or 10 days.
“Neil Gallagher (knee) and David Walsh (hernia) will be a week or two before they are integrate, while Christy Toye (knee) back fully this week and Patrick McBrearty (groin) had his operation and is recovering well but will be another month.
“It would’ve been nice to have won today because we might’ve got a semi-final and that might’ve suited David Walsh, Neil Gallagher, Christy Toye and Neil McGee, who all would have a chance of playing at a latter stage of this competition.”
Donegal travel to Armagh, who beat a Queen’s University side 1-17 to 0-15 that included Martin McElhinney, at the Athletic Grounds, this Sunday.