Donegal hurlers are back in action this Saturday when they go head to head with Antrim in the Ulster Championship in Celtic Park. (3 pm)
It should be a big game for the newly crowned Division 3A champions, but with their championship ambitions elsewhere, it is a game Donegal and manager Ardal McDermott could have done without.
Antrim, winners of 2A of the Allianz League and promoted to Division 1B, two levels above Donegal, are also bidding for a 16th Ulster Senior Hurling Championship in-a-row.
With 56 Ulster Senior Championship titles, Antrim haven’t lost a game in the provincial championship since 2002.
“We haven’t played Antrim in the championship in 40 years or so and from that point of view it is good,” said Donegal manager Ardal McDermott.
“But Antrim are at a couple of levels above us and being realistic the Ulster championship is not a priority for us.
“Our focus is on the Nicky Rackard Cup and that is what our focus is on and we are a bit disappointed that we are not getting a couple of weeks to take stock after the league and then be able to turn our attention to Armagh in the first round of the Nicky Rackard Cup.”
Donegal are due to play Armagh on Saturday April 22nd, in the first round of the Nicky Rackard Cup in O’Donnell Park.
And it is for that reason that the Donegal boss hopes that Sunday week’s Ulster Championship relegation play-off, most likely between Donegal and Armagh, is postponed.
Armagh and Down meet in the other senior semi-final on Sunday in Iniskeen, Monaghan. Down are the favourites to emerge from that game.
“Hopefully, the relegation play-off can be postponed and we get time to draw our breath before the start of Nicky Rackard.
“Otherwise it will be straight into the Nicky Rackard without a break and having played seven games in the previous seven weeks.
“That would be very unfair and no way to prepare for the Nicky Rackard championship.”
Donegal will still be without Ronan McDermott (work), Kevin Campbell and Enda McDermott (injured) for Saturday’s meeting with the Saffrons.
The manager is unsure about Declan Coulter, who has been sidelined in recent weeks and missed the last couple of game with a hamstring injury.
“It will be later in the week before we know Declan’s position for certain. He’s not far away from a return but if he not 100% we won’t risk him, given the schedule of games we have ahead of us.”
The manager hopes to have Christopher McDermott and Gerard Gilmore, another of Donegal’s winter signings available. They were both introduced from the bench in last Saturday’s league final win over Tyrone.