The Donegal League, beaten semi-finalists two seasons ago, begin their Oscar Traynor Cup campaign on Saturday evening with an away match against the Inishowen League in Culdaff (kick off 6pm).
The match is the first of a two-legged tie with Donegal having home advantage in the second game in January.
The format of the competition has changed this year with the organisers doing away with the old group system.
The Sligo/Leitrim League have been moved into the Connaught area with just three teams, Donegal League, Inishowen League and Cavan/Monaghan in the Ulster area.
Cavan/Monaghan defeated the Inishowen League in a one-off tie last month. The Inishowen League and the Donegal League will now meet over two legs with the winners joining Cavan/Monaghan in the next stage of the competition.
Donegal League manager Brian Dorrian said the changes aren’t ideal.
“It is a bit strange, but I suppose, you just have to get on with it. The old system saw you playing three group matches and the top two in the group qualified.
“But now we’ve got to meet Inishowen over two legs. They lost out to Cavan/Monaghan and that was a result that surprised a lot of people. We all know how good a side Inishowen are. They’ve been one of the most consistent teams in this competition over recent seasons and they are very strong again this year.”
Dorrian, and his management team of Peter Doherty, Tommy McFadden and Mark Curran, have selected a strong and experienced panel for this year’s campaign. Up to nine players from last year’s squad are no longer involved with some players joining Ulster Senior League clubs and others taking up employment away from home and therefore no longer playing in the league.
Oisin Gallen (Cappry Rovers), Ryan Farrell and Connor Doherty (St. Catherine’s), Aidan McLaughlin (Bonagee Utd) and Daniel McHugh (Donegal Town) are just some of a number of new faces in the panel, and Dorrian is happy with how preparations have gone.
“We’ve been going well. We’ve played friendlies against Finn Harps, Derry City and Letterkenny Rovers over the past three or four weeks and that has been a big help.
“But we know we’ve a difficult test on Saturday.
“Away goals will count over the two legs so the aim will be to go to Culdaff and avoid defeat, and maybe try to nick a goal.”
The Donegal League squad is: Joe Coll (Glenea United), Michael Mullen (St. Catherine's), Paddy Cannon (Glenea United), Kieran Gorman (Kilmacrennan Celtic), Ryan Shields (Kilmacrennan), Dylan Hegarty (Rathmullan Celtic), Eoin Ferry (Milford Utd.), Oisin Gallen (Cappry Rovers), Connor Doherty (St. Catherine's), Philip Whyte (Drumkeen United0, Benny Bonnar (Drumkeen Utd.), Damien Crossan (Kildrum Tigers), Benny McLaughlin (Cappry Rovers), Daniel McHugh (Donegal Town), Gareth Colhoun (Kildrum Tigers), Caolan McDaid (Kilmacrennan), Ciaran McGeady (Glenea Utd.), Ryan Farrell (St. Catherine's), Aidan McLaughlin (Bonagee Utd.), Gavin McGlanaghey (Arranmore Utd.), JP Malley (Castlefinn Celtic).