THE change to the structure of the new season has delivered its first endorsement before a ball has even been thrown in as Odhran MacNiallais has decided to return to the Donegal panel.
It was revealed this week by Highland Radio that MacNiallais has agreed to rejoin Declan Bonner’s squad. MacNiallais confirmed the news to Gaelic Life and explained his reasoning.
“I have decided to commit to the Donegal panel for the new season. The reason I am doing is is the shorter season as that appealed to me more,” MacNiallais said this week.
“In previous years the commitment levels were hard to commit to. It was almost a full year. The shorter season suits me better.”
The 28-year-old’s return to the squad is a surprise because last year he told the Irish News and the Irish Independent that the commitment levels demanded from an inter-county player were too great for him, and he didn’t enjoy the amount of time it took up in his year.
Indeed, in a feature interview in this week’s Gaelic Life he explains how his attitude has changed towards Gaelic football in the past 10 years. He has went from being obsessed, to realising that there’s more to life to football. He explains how he almost moved to Australia but decided against it because he wanted to be closer to his family.
“Football doesn’t have the same hold on me as it used to,” he said. “I play a lot of golf, I have a new nephew. I enjoy all that, I know that football isn’t the be all and end all.”
But now he is back in the panel, MacNiallais is ready to go forward and try to get on Declan Bonner’s starting 15. MacNiallais believes that there is great potential in the Donegal team and they can achieve plenty this year.
“Donegal were playing well last year. Donegal are strong all over the park. They have players that can do damage. If Donegal are fit and going well they have some of the best players in the country. Last year they would have given Dublin a good rattle.
“Donegal have good man-markers and if you are going to beat Dublin you have to have good man-markers and Donegal have that.
“If Donegal got to play Dublin they would have beat them. If Donegal had beat Cavan they would have given Dublin a run for their money.
“I don’t think that Donegal would fear Dublin.
“Neil McGee said recently that the Dubs are beatable and I agree. I think every county team is doing as much training as they are. But they have 25 solid players who are just at the peak of their game. They would walk into any other county team.”
MacNiallais said that he felt that the Dubs were not getting the credit that they deserve.
“I don’t believe in this money craic. I just think they have been blessed with the best players in Ireland and have made the most of it. There are teams there that can beat them.
“I just sit back and admire Dublin. They don’t deserve all the negative stuff that is coming their way. They are the greatest team of their generation yet they get comments like the money.”
Yet he still thinks that Donegal are contenders.
“Donegal want to put things right this year and get the Ulster title back. I do believe that with the players that Donegal have we can push for an All-Ireland title.
“Donegal were maybe unlucky with injuries last year, Stephen McMenamin, Ciaran Thompson, Oisin Gallen, but that loss to Cavan was a shock. Maybe Cavan were the hungrier team. Donegal and Declan Bonner will be sick about last year, I know that. But they will bounce back.”