THINK we were all taken aback with the intensity levels of the first two rounds of the National League, but after teams had a break last weekend the intensity levels should go up even further in round three.
We are now moving swiftly into the business end of the league even though it’s only really after getting underway. Given what’s at stake this season and very little time in between league and championship, teams are hitting third and fourth gear already.
The two teams I’d like to focus on this week are my own county, Donegal as well as Monaghan. These two teams have been dining at the top table in Ulster of the last decade or so but now they find themselves in transition. When you think back over the last decade these two counties delivered their fair share of memorable moments and games.
I watched Monaghan and Donegal in the McKenna cup in early January and even though both sets of management were missing some of their key men it was evident that both teams were a little below what they had produced over the last number of years.
I’ll start with Donegal. Even though we are without doubt going through a period of transition, I still have faith that we can do some damage come summer time. The first outing against Kerry was excellent and some of the displays, especially from our younger players, were very promising.
Taking on Tyrone was always going to be a tough ask. Tyrone are hard to beat in Omagh at the best of times but given their poor performance in the opening round the pressure was on them to deliver against Donegal. I believe that game will stand to this young Donegal team as they prepare for this week’s crunch tie with Monaghan because this game now becomes very important to both counties.
The experience of playing Tyrone and not performing will actually benefit these young guys as they cut their teeth at this level. Hopefully Paddy Carr may have some of the older heads available to him this weekend and when you add the likes of Langan, McHugh and Eoghan Bán to the picture then things will start to look a lot brighter for this youthful Donegal team.
Two points at the weekend would do wonders for this squad and I’m sure that it’s a game that they will have targeted before the season got underway.
Should Donegal get a result this weekend then their league standing will look good and if Donegal can stay in Division one they will only grow in confidence moving into the summer months.
Monaghan are at a similar stage to ourselves in that a lot of their older players who have soldiered for so long have either moved on or are coming to the end. Naturally, they need a new wave of players, but unfortunately for them that takes time to build.
I refer back to that earlier McKenna cup game when the Monaghan of old just wasn’t to be seen. Granted Conor McManus wasn’t playing and he will be gradually introduced or the next few weeks, but they lacked any real threat up front that night and that physical power and aggression that we had been so used to seeing just wasn’t there.
They will still rely heavily on McManus and the Hughes brothers but the key for Monaghan now is to try and find some new players who are capable of taking on the mantle. Kerry took them apart the last day out so I’m sure that Vinny Corey (right) will have his team well up for this very important league game this weekend.
I feel for Corey as he took a job that nobody else wanted so I hope that he is also afforded time to rebuild this Monaghan team and to try abs blood some new players.
Elsewhere there are two more cracking games in store with Mayo taking on Kerry and Galway facing Tyrone.
Galway are another team who are coming under a little bit of pressure and who badly need a win this weekend. I’ll go for Donegal, Kerry, Tyrone and Roscommon this weekend.