By Shaun Casey
ULSTER champions Donegal have been drawn into the “group of death” according to manager Maxi Curran as they begin their All-Ireland charge this weekend.
The Tir Chonaill ladies host Waterford before taking on reigning All-Ireland champions Meath in round three. “We couldn’t have got a tougher one really, we’re in the group of death so to speak,” said Curran.
“We’re in the only group with three Division One teams so it’s tough from that perspective. But we didn’t even look at the All-Ireland series until last week after Ulster and we were that delighted to be going into the group as top seed, so we’re really happy.
“We have a home game against Waterford. Any time you have a home game it’s a boost and last year we played them in Birr and that was a big ask.”
While Donegal will hope home advantage counts for something, they’ll need no reminder that Waterford travelled to Letterkenny during the league and returned home with a 2-9 to 0-7 victory.
“They beat us comfortably in the league in Letterkenny,” added Curran “They had a brilliant league campaign and they’re riding high on the back of that, so we’ll probably be underdogs despite winning Ulster.
“Waterford will take any team to the wire in Ireland. It is a big challenge but we’re looking forward to it, a home All-Ireland series game, we’ve never had it before and we do a lot of our training in Lifford so that all helps.”
Donegal’s confidence took a hit during the league as they were relegated to Division Two, losing all seven of their games, but bounced back to claim Ulster gold.
“It was a lovely end to the Ulster campaign, there weren’t many that gave us a chance of winning it so they’re always the sweetest ones when you get over the line in those circumstances.
“We’re all long enough at this game now to know you take it one game at a time and you just make the next game the be all and end all,” continued the Donegal boss.
“We probably didn’t dwell too much on the league situation and we had a pretty different squad heading into the championship than we had in the league, so we were freshening up things up as we went along and that probably added to it.
“But when you’re involved in sport at this level you get plenty of setbacks so if you’re going to be wallowing in self-pity every time you’re beaten you’ll go nowhere. We just had to pull it together and try and forget about the league and move on.
“We felt we always had a really good chance of winning the Ulster Championship. We lost the last two finals by a point, and we’d won the two before that, so we knew we were never that far away.
“We played our football in Division One for the last six years, Armagh have been in Division Two, so we probably felt that the odds were stacked against us a wee bit unfairly.”