It has been a long season so far for Donegal wing-back Dáire Ó Baoill and he is enjoying every minute of it.
The young Gaoth Dobhair man was an influential member of the Gaoth Dobhair side that won an historic first Ulster Club Championship back in February before giving All-Ireland champions Corofin a run for their money in the All-Ireland semi-final.
And that was on the back of Gaoth Dobhair’s run through Donegal and Ulster and Donegal’s successful Ulster championship campaign and three games in the Super 8s.
Dáire, who is hoping to get his first start against Fermanagh on Sunday, made five appearances from the bench in last year’s Ulster and Super 8s championship.
“It has been a long year alright but I love playing football and that is what I love about this time of the year when the best football is played and that is what I live for,” said Dáire.
“Declan and the management were very good to us after the club championship. They gave us two weeks off to get the feet and the heads straight and that is what we did.
“We knew when we came back that we would have to keep the heads down because we would be two months behind the rest of the squad.
“For the first couple of weeks we struggled to keep up with the rest of the squad. But now, thankfully, having put in the work we are all at the same level.”
By the end of the league the flying Gaoth Dobhair man had nailed down a place in Declan Bonner’s starting 15. At the end of March he claimed his first national medal, an Allianz National Football League Division Two winners’ medal.
He is now keeping his fingers crossed this week that he makes the starting line-up for Sunday’s showdown on the Banks of the Erne.
“I would like to get a first start. But there are 30 lads in the squad and they are all looking for the same thing and they all want to be in the starting team.”
Dáire has come up through the ranks with Donegal and has cut his county teeth at U-16, minor and U-21. But in all those years he has never come under the guidance of Rory Gallagher, the Fermanagh manager.
“I never played under Rory Gallagher. But I have heard from the lads that have played under him what he is like and what to expect in Brewster Park on Sunday.
“We know it is going to be a tough hard game. It is going to be a typical Ulster championship game but we won't mind what type of game it is as long as we come out on the right end of the result.”
Dáire Ó Baoill was the man Declan Bonner turned to when Patrick McBrearty pulled up early in the second half of last year’s Ulster final.
“Next Sunday's game will be a totally different game to last year's Ulster final. First of all it is in Brewster Park, their home ground, and they will no doubt be going all out to avenge the Ulster final defeat.
“They will be gunning for us and trying to avenge the defeat.
“They got revenge of sorts in the league game in O'Donnell Park. But the reality is we went on to win the league and promotion and they got stuck in Division Two.”
A trademark feature of Dáire’s games for Gaoth Dobhair and their championship run last year was his surging runs from the middle of the field.
“When you have the forward line like we have with Michael Murphy, Paddy McBrearty, Jamie Brennan and Ryan McHugh running at them we know if we keep it tight in defence, the lads will do the job up top.
"I'm not sure what role I will have. I've played a number of different roles under Declan. All I can do is my best and hopefully I will get on the end of a number of runs and hit a few scores.
“There is only so much you can do against a packed defence so I would say it is going to be a slow game.It will a case of two tactical teams trying to break each other down.“
Dáire is very happy with how preparations have gone over the last seven weeks and gives the thumbs up designating April to club football.
“We had our challenge games and we had our inhouse 15 against 15 games and they can be as pretty competitive as any challenge game.
“We've a number of club games under our belts too which was good because the more games you play the better. The more game time you get coming up to the championship the better.
“The club games were 100% good for us. They kept us ticking over instead of just training all the time over a six/seven week period.”
The Gaoth Dobhair man, one the county’s emerging bright young stars, makes no secret of the fact he would love to add another Ulster championship medal to his trophy cabinet.
But he also insists nobody in the Donegal camp is looking beyond Brewster Park and Fermanagh on Sunday.