Donegal in search of the safety net

By Michael McMullan

DONEGAL have had to park their disappointment quickly and fix their eyes on another crucial game this weekend.

After dropping out of Division One last season, their chances of bouncing straight back up were dashed by their defeat to Tyrone.

It will be Tyrone and Kildare who make the climb next season and battle it out for the league title but Donegal are still looking over their shoulder.

“We have to get points on the board against Cavan,” said Donegal skipper Niamh McLaughlin of their focus.

“Three teams (Cavan, Tipperary and Westmeath) are on six points so we still have to a win a game to be sure.”

Donegal were targeting the Tyrone game in their promotion bid with the bonus of a league final showdown.

“It was a chance for a day in Croke Park and having all in our own hands but now there is a bit of pressure on us,” she said.

Tyrone came at Donegal in two different spells before they got a grip on the game and reduced the margin to two points at a vital juncture.

“They (Tyrone) were just clinical and have a lot of good players, they are a group Sean (O’Kane) has had for the last few years and a bit of momentum does help,” McLaughlin added.

“For us, we came down from Division One and we have had to regroup with a lot of new players in. We are trying to build towards the next few years.

“It is not a question of where we want to be in a year’s time but where we want to be in five years’ time. We want to play at the highest level we can.”

That’s where Sunday comes in. A win would give Donegal an opportunity to build some momentum going into the championship.

“We have to go out and do that against Cavan, we need to put a performance together, which we have done,” McLaughlin said, pointing to the tight nature of all their outings this season.

“None of the games we’ve had have been a walkover. They have been nip and tuck, we have created the chances bit didn’t get the scores on the board that let us down a bit.”

Conceding three goals against Tyrone was a disappointment given how Donegal have prided themselves on being tough to break down.

Donegal ran Kildare close, a side McLaughlin compares to the all-conquering Meath team from their days at the top of the intermediate grade. Kildare were four-point winners when the sides met in Letterkenny in round two.

“If we had got an extra week, we could’ve maybe got a result but they are a better team on the day,” McLaughlin said. “It’s not as if we were a million miles away.”

Looking forward, Donegal have two games to relieve any danger of a second straight relegation. It’s unlikely, yet possible with three teams on six points.

“You would’ve liked to have gone into the last two games with everything secure but that’s the way it is, this is where we are at,” McLaughlin concluded.

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