Mac Ceallabhuí is aiming to impress

By Ryan Ferry

JEAIC Mac Ceallabhuí is hoping that versatility will add to his chances of getting more minutes in a Donegal jersey this season.

The Naomh Conaill defender had a good run with the county team during the 2020 championship which was played late in the year due to Covid.

He has been involved in the three campaigns that have followed but hasn’t been quite able to get a steady run in the team. Injuries and college commitments haven’t helped his case.

It won’t be easy to nail down a starting spot in the side this season either, but he has started two of the three matches so far and came on as a sub against Tyrone.

Mac Ceallabhuí has played on every line of the field, expect for goalkeeper, for his club.

He is very much the modern-day transition player who can plug holes in a number of different positions, which should stand to him as the 2024 season develops.

“Well hopefully it will be yeah,” the former UCD student told Gaelic Life.

“There are bucks pushing hard and flying, and everyone is trying to push it on.

“The management team will make those decisions but it doesn’t do any harm anyway.

“It’s a help to have it (the versatility) anyway.”

Derry are one of the top teams in the country at present but it wasn’t always that way.

You only have to go back five years since they were competing in Division 4.

They have steadily climbed the ladder, and while Saturday’s McKenna Cup final will act as a decent barometer of Donegal’s early season promise, MacCeallabhuí feels the main importance at this time of the year is building for the league.

“There’s a couple of ways of looking at it.

“It’s another game for us and preparation for the league.

“Derry have done a great job from where they have come to where they are now.

“They are flying and pushing on well and you have the Glen lads, and they still probably have to get a lot of them back, and they are in the McKenna Cup Final.

“What they are doing is great. It’s just preparation for the league really.”

When asked if Donegal might like to lay down a marker ahead of the Ulster Championship meeting on Saturday, April 20, Mac Ceallabhuí quickly dismissed that idea.

“No, no it’s just about getting ready for the league.”

The hype is certainly building with this Donegal team now that Jim McGuinness is back at the helm.

However, MacCeallabhuí is remaining level-headed and he says he doesn’t notice any great changes from the set-up in previous seasons.

“For us it’s just the same every year.

“You go out and play the McKenna Cup and you train and you go into the league.

“Maybe things were different but you don’t notice that in the moment, you just keep going.

“Maybe then you get time to look back on it and take things from it, but at the time, you’re just focusing on your training, and that’s all you see.”

The All-Ireland Club Final takes place this Sunday with Glen from Derry taking on St Brigid’s.

Naomh Conaill rattled Watty Graham’s in the Ulster semi-final but lost out to a last-gasp point.

With a little more luck they could have won that match, and who knows, possibly have made it to Croke Park on club football’s biggest day.

“I suppose it’s one of those things. You’re watching it thinking you could be there but at the end of the day, it’s just a kick of the ball and that happens.

“But I think you just park it and move on.”

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