By Shaun Casey
DONEGAL manager Mickey McCann has praised the “new generation” of talent coming through the Tir Chonaill ranks as the driving force behind their perfect start to the Nickey Rackard Cup.
McCann’s men saw off Fermanagh on the opening day before defeating Armagh by 10 points in round two. Liam McKinney has led the line for Donegal, rattling off 2-16 across the two games.
“Liam was brilliant,” remarked McCann after the Armagh win.
“I was saying in the huddle after the game, it’s great for that new generation. Conor Gartland had a stormer today, Ruairi Campbell, Stephen McBride, these new, young boys put in a big shift today to get us over the line.
“That’s what you need is young boys pushing things on and they’ve been great for us all year. Liam was very sharp in front of the posts from placed balls and from play.
“The Athletic Grounds through the years, we’ve got very little out of here.
“I think that’s twice we’ve won here since I’ve taken the job, the standard of hurling is very strong.
“It’s a good result for us and we’re happy that the young boys stepped up and it’s great that we have a good balance of youth and experience there now and hopefully we can build on it next week.”
It’s all about Roscommon this weekend and that’s where Donegal’s focus will lie. The Rossies, who’ll have home advantage, earned their first win of the campaign last Saturday, beating Louth 5-8 to 1-17 following their first-round defeat to Armagh.
“If we just tidy up in a few areas, we’ll be hard to beat in this competition. Week by week, Armagh’s beaten Roscommon and we’re going there next week but that result between Armagh and Roscommon will mean nothing because Roscommon have to beat us or they’re probably out of the competition.
“It’s just really into a quarter-final next week, then semi-final and that’s the way we’re treating it,” added McCann.
While Donegal overcame Fermanagh on the opening day, McCann was much more pleased with their second-round performance. “I thought our pressure was good in defence and a much-improved performance from last week.
“You have to learn, if you can get better week to week, that’s what counts.
“It’s so important to keep the scoreboard ticking over and we were a bit more clinical in front of the nets today.”
Donegal will hope they can call upon Danny Cullen, who limped off against the Orchard County after just 18 minutes, when they face Roscommon. Cullen has been hampered with injuries all season, but McCann hopes the injury isn’t as bad as first feared.
“He’s very tidy and it took us a while to get the structure right again, Danny’s very tidy in there. We’re hoping it’s not that bad and he’ll be okay for next week. He seems to think it’s not as bad as it was a month ago so hopefully, he’ll get a good recovery and he’ll be available for selection next week again.”