Donegal aim to continue winning streak

By Shaun Casey

THE return of Jim McGuinness was hailed as a sliding doors moment in Donegal GAA before a ball was even kicked and while it’s perhaps still too early in the season to be making any bold predictions, he certainly has them moving in the right direction.

Donegal looked like lost souls for most of 2023 as they lost their place in the topflight before crashing out of the Ulster Championship at the first hurdle to Conor Laverty’s Down, a side McGuinness had given a helping hand to.

But already things are looking up for the Tir Chonaill men and after two rounds of the league, they couldn’t have hoped to be in a better position as 140-plus minutes of league action sees them rest joint-top of Division Two alongside Armagh.

In fact, the top end of the second division is dominated by Ulster counties, with the first four places all filled by teams from the northern province. You have Armagh, Donegal, then McGuinness’ next opponents Fermanagh and their previous opposition Cavan.

While Donegal have impressed so far, collecting maximum points from both games, their two matches yielded contrasting results. They were much too strong for Cork the first day out, but only overcame Cavan by the minimum of margins in their most recent fixture.

A huge positive has been the return of Oisin Gallen who lit up the championship for Donegal last season but has been troubled with injuries in recent years and has yet to fulfil his undoubted potential.

The Sean Mac Cumhaills sharpshooter was on top form against the Breffni Blues, rattling off 0-6 with 0-4 from play to earn his side a one-point win. Paddy McBrearty also chipped in, claiming a personal haul of 0-4.

With two inside score-getters like those, who also have a keen eye for goal, Donegal are sure to cause plenty of headaches for opposition defences, with the likes of Jamie Brennan, Ciaran Thompson, Ryan McHugh and a few others well fit to chip in.

Gallen did miss the first round against the Rebels, as did net-minder Shaun Patton, but both returned to the starting line up for round two while Caolan McGonigle has been excelling in his new position of centre half back.

This time last season, Donegal were competing in Division One while Fermanagh were battling their way out of Division Three but come 2024 both counties would have viewed the league much differently.

Keeping their place in the division and securing a spot in the race for Sam Maguire would have been Fermanagh’s main goal while Donegal are keen to bounce right back and earn their spot at the top tier.

A chance to solidify their place at the top of Division Two is the target from Donegal and with the added advantage of playing the game on home turf, they’ll be confident of doing juts that. But Fermanagh won’t lie down and will offer stiff opposition.

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