Maxi Curran believes the appointment of so many new club managers, coupled with the increase of ‘star’ games from four to six, means we could well be in for a much more interesting All County League season.
The Downings man, who led St. Eunan’s to league and county championship titles during his time in charge in Letterkenny, has been replaced at O’Donnell Park by new senior team manager, David McGinley.
That change is one of many within the various leagues in Donegal and Curran believes the number of new faces in charge at club level is probably the most intriguing aspect of the new season.
“For many clubs, the way the league pans out for them each season, depends an awful lot on their manager’s attitude,” he said.
“I went with the approach that the league was not that vitally important to St. Eunan’s, given the number of leagues they had won over the years. We weren’t going all out to win the league every year. We used it more as a development tool where we were able to blood new players and give some of the younger members of the squad a taste of senior action.
“If you look back at 2014 especially, we benefitted from that approach because when it came to the championship, I was able to use some of the younger players. By then, they’d played almost an entire year of league football with the club.”
Curran said St. Michael’s, winners of the Democrat Cup as Division One champions last year, concentrated much of their efforts on winning the league. Because of that, they didn’t play all that much football during the summer months (when they didn’t play league games), and Curran feels their championship aspirations may have suffered as a result.
He points to the fact that both St. Eunan’s and Naomh Conaill were willing and able to play league games whenever they could and ended up going all the way to the final in the Senior Championship.
“It’s difficult for clubs who might not have big squads,” he pointed out. “But if teams are willing to play games without their county players or whenever players are away on holidays or are unavailable, I think it’s better for everyone.”
In that regard, Curran said the increase in the number of ‘star’ games from four to six is a positive change. He insists games should be played when possible, especially during the summer months.
“It will make for a far smoother season all round when it comes to fixtures,” he said.
There’s much change in the top division following the relegation of Malin and Four Masters and the promotion of Termon and Bundoran.
“It’s great for Termon to be up in Division One,” Maxi Curran said.
“Francie Friel is in charge and if there’s anyone who can do a job with Termon, it’s Francie. He’s a proud Termon man and believe me, they’ll be well able for this division. They won’t be found wanting, you can guarantee that.”
On Bundoran, Curran feels they will be keen to make up for the disappointment of losing out in Ulster last season.
“That’s one that perhaps they left behind them,” he said.
“But they had a great year in 2015. They’ve got good players and they’ll be a bit more experienced now. Remember the last time they were in the Senior Championship, they got a horrible group along with Kilcar, St. Michael’s and Glenswilly. So they will have learned from that as well.”
Kilcar, according to Curran, will be strong again this season, especially with Martin McHugh taking over as manager.
“Look, they swept all before them at U-21 last season,” he said. “There’s no doubting the quality that’s in Kilcar. They’re going to be very strong again.”
St. Eunan’s are another club with a new face at the helm. David McGinley, Curran said, is a “fantastic appointment”. “He’s black and amber through and through,” Curran added.
“I wish him every success and I’ve no doubt he’ll do well. He’s of a modern mindset and has won so much with the club, he brings so much with him to the position.”
Like Kilcar, Curran said they’re going back to the old guard in Ardara as well with the appointment of Seamus Gallagher while at Naomh Conaill, Martin Doherty and Martin Regan are in charge, with Regan having a change of heart after his decision to step down from the post at the end of 2015.
“Glenties had a fantastic year,” Curran added. “They did well in the Ulster League and then they won the Gaeltacht. They were always there or thereabouts in the league and look what they did in the championship before losing in Ulster.
“Martin (Regan) is the kind of manager that wants to win every competition his teams are in, and I expect no different this year.”
Maxi Curran feels this division could well prove one of the closest for many years.
“If you look at the teams that are in there this season, every one of them is capable, on their day, of beating each other,” he said.
“Malin and Four Masters have come down, but they won’t find it easy to get out of Division Two straight away.
“Four Masters have Kevin ‘Cookie’ Gallagher as manager and I think, from speaking to people, the club would admit themselves that relegation might not do them any harm because they are a team in transition.
“We played them last year and I remember there were around ten or eleven players that I didn’t know. They’ve got plenty of young players coming through which is great and you add that to the more experienced boys, and they’re not in a bad situation.”
Curran points to Milford as another club who could have a good 2016. He said they had a great win in Gweedore recently in the Gaeltacht competition and new manager, Danny O’Donnell, seems to be settling in well.
Sean MacCumhaills, Naomh Muire and Glenfin all have plenty of strength and experience and will also be looking forward to the new campaign with some degree of optimism.
Aodh Ruadh, Ballyshannon, Gaeil Fhanada and Burt could, according to Maxi Curran, be the teams to watch in this division.
“Aodh Ruadh, especially, look like a club that’s on the up and up,” he said.
“They ran Bundoran very close in last year’s Intermediate Championship and probably on the day, were disappointed not to have won.”
Add in the fact that so much progress is being made at underage level in Ballyshannon, Curran insists Aodh Ruadh could be in for a good 2016,
Burt, Curran added, are another club who have the ability to challenge for honours, but much will depend on the availability of players, and the loss of some members of the squad to hurling during the season.
“Fanad enjoyed a good run in the championship last season, but they’ll have been disappointed to have been relegated from Division Two,” he said.
Downings, Buncrana and Urris are also in Division Three and will also fancy their chances of mounting a charge for promotion at the end of 2016.
See Page 57 for fixtures and verdicts