Kevin Cassidy

KEVIN CASSIDY: Will Jim bring something new?

I SPENT Christmas Day like everyone does, eating way too much, sipping on wine and beers and spending quality time with the family.

On St Stephen’s day, I went for a brisk walk in the fresh air to clear the head after my overindulgence of the previous day.

I stopped off at the Gaoth Dobhair GAA grounds down in Magheragallan where the annual charity match was taking place. The club raises funds for the local day centre by playing a game of North versus South.

Gone are the days where are I might take part in the game but now I’m happy enough just to go down stand on the sideline and shoot the breeze with some of my the former teammates.

As we watched the game, one of the lads passed a comment that the Donegal lads trained early that morning in preparation for the Dr McKenna Cup, which is coming down the tracks.

His statement sent shivers down my spine as my mind flew back to my days of playing inter-county football.

The Christmas season would be the most torturous of all due to trying to juggle actually having a festive season with also trying to get the body ready for the upcoming football season.

I’m not sure how many counties squads trained on the 26th but I’m pretty sure Donegal wouldn’t have been the only one to do so given the nature of how county teams prepare nowadays. The McKenna Cup is fast approaching next week with the league following quickly after that.

These lads have been back in serious training for a number of weeks now and from a management point of view you can’t let the festive season derail those fitness plans and goals.

As a player, I dreaded this time of the year, especially towards the latter part of my career as things started to get extremely professional and serious.

Christmas was a difficult time to be an inter-county player. These young lads are watching their family and friends – some of whom may have travelled long distances to spend time with their families – going out and doing fun things together but the inter-county players don’t have that option.

Even Christmas Day has to be carefully planned now, especially with training on the next day or so. As a player, I always found this part of the process extremely challenging.

From a Donegal point of view, we are excited to see what the season brings. The lads have been putting in a big shift over the last few months, and with Jim now in charge, the whole county is on a high to see how they shape up in the first few competitive games of the season.

Given the draw we got in the McKenna cup, with us facing the likes of Armagh and Tyrone, from early next week, Donegal fans will be back on the road open to cheer the lads on the glory.

I’m hearing good things about the progress that has been made within the squad and how hard boys are working.

The big question now is how Jim will go about setting this Donegal team up this time around. Will he bring anything new to the table?

Keeping in mind the draw we have in Ulster I expect to see these lads hit the ground running early doors as they try and get into the groove and familiarise themselves with their new system of play.

I am excited to see how those first few games will go. Our first competitive game of the 2024 season takes place next week in Ballybofey when we host Armagh.

I will touch base on this more next week as I also look forward to Glen’s massive semi-final game. For now all that is left to do is wish you all a very Happy New Year and I hope that 2024 brings you everything what you wish for.

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