NICKY RACKARD CUP: Tyrone will provide tough test for Donegal - Mickey McCann

NICKY RACKARD CUP: Tyrone will provide tough test for Donegal - Mickey McCann
Peter Campbell sport@donegaldemocrat.com @dgldemocrat

Donegal hurlers go to Healy Park, Omagh on Saturday (3 p.m.) for what will be a very tough test in the Nicky Rackard Cup, according to manager, Mickey McCann.

After a very successful league campaign in which Donegal retained their Division 2B status with some comfort, recording wins over Derry, Down and Armagh.

But Donegal manager, McCann, has a short memory and is very quick to point out that Tyrone handed Donegal a 15-point hammering in the Nicky Rackard last year.

Now, 12 months later, Donegal meet the Red Hand men again and after their results in the league, they go to Omagh as strong favourites. Indeed, they would be among the favourites to take the Nicky Rackard this year on league form.

But the league is over and there has been nine weeks to prepare for this Saturday. "We spent the first three or four weeks just ticking over, but as the game comes closer, we have been training hard and are rarin' to go now," says McCann.

"But we know that we facing a tough task. Tyrone beat us by 15 points last year and after our league campaign, we are favourites. Tyrone will be a big test, but I feel we have the better hurlers.

"They will come out to test us and they will use last year's result as a marker. I expect a very tight match," says McCann.

Reflecting back on the league campaign, McCann says he was very happy with the way the side performed. "The experience gained will stand to them. But the difference is we went into all of those games as underdogs and we caught them on the hop.

"I always felt this team was capable of good things.

"But now it is different in the championship. We are now the favourites and maybe are favourites for the Nicky Rackard."

Asked if that brings pressure for the manager, McCann says: "We have to get the mindset right. We have a good crop of players. They beat us last year and that might be in the minds of players," says McCann, who feels that the backroom team have got a lot of things right this year.

"We have got match-ups right and we are playing to our strengths," he says. "I would be very, very happy with the league campaign. We had a weakened team when we went to Mayo and we missed four goal opportunities in Wicklow (the two games they lost).

"We could have been in a promotion play-off. At the start of the campaign the aim would have been to retain our status or maybe be in a relegation play-off. We got higher than that and it has led to good confidence."

As for Saturday, McCann says he has almost a full deck to choose from. The big worry is Lee Henderson who is struggling with an ankle injury and is 50/50 at the moment.

"Lee would be very disappointed if he is not able to play as he has been in great form all year. We will not know for sure until we sit down to pick the team tomorrow night (Thursday)," said McCann, who said that they had plenty of cover in the free taking department with Declan Coulter and Davin Flynn.

The only other slight worry is Jamesie Donnelly, who picked up a slight injury.

Donegal are in a group with Tyrone and Leitrim (they entertain Leitrim in Letterkenny on Saturday week). The other group has four teams - Warwickshire, Louth, Monaghan and Longford.