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28 Jan 2022

MAC'S VIEW: Antrim in Portglenone will not be easy for Donegal today

In his weekly Donegal Democrat column, Brian McEniff looks over the McKenna Cup win over Down and admits today's fixture in Antrim will be a test

MAC'S VIEW: Antrim in Portglenone will not be easy for Donegal today

Patrick McBrearty in action for Donegal against Down last week

Donegal will be happy enough to have got back out on the field on Friday night last in the Dr McKenna Cup against a new-look Down team. James  McCartan was back as their manager and he had a fairly experimental team out.

I was watching the game on stream but it broke up twice for long periods, which was very disappointing. I switched to Ocean FM and was listening to their commentary; Manus Boyle was on with Paddy McGill.

From what I saw, and considering the team that Down fielded, it was not the most convincing Donegal performance. It's hard to know how good or how bad Down were. And given that they lost to Antrim at home in Tuesday night, it looks as if we might have some improvement to do.

But from the point of view of giving young players a chance, it was a good night. I gather that there were nine players making their debuts and a few others who were not regulars also got game time.

We were ahead twice by four points, once in the first half and again in the second and we were pegged back. In fact Down went ahead with their second goal and it took a big finish to get Donegal over the line.

We will have to learn from the game but a win is a win, even if it was against a poor Down side.

It will be interesting to see how they get on today in Portglenone against Antrim.  It is a new venue for Donegal. I can't remember ever playing there but I have passed through the town on many occasions. I remember a Portglenone player, Tony McAtamney, playing for Ulster at centre half-back and he had a sister, Mairead, who was a very good camogie player.

It will not be an easy venue for Donegal. Antrim have a new management in place with Tyrone men Enda McGinley and Stephen O'Neill in charge.

I don't know what Declan's (Bonner) attitude will be towards the game but I would expect that he would want the win and the chance of at least one more game. These games are very good preparation for the National League and are much better than training sessions.

I'm sure he had someone watching the Down-Antrim game on Tuesday night and I would feel that Donegal will have to improve a good deal if they are to get the win against Antrim.

There are a good number of the Donegal squad involved in Sigerson action this week and some will be involved again next week, especially after the wins for Letterkenny IT and DCU, but there should be a big enough squad to deal with that.

It was good to hear of those Sigerson results on Tuesday night. Letterkenny had a big win against Carlow with some late scores. I see Jason McGee was in the side; he had been named for Donegal last Friday night but didn't play.  It will be good to see him back in a Donegal jersey  today.

GOOD LUCK TO DERRYGONNELLY

Tomorrow, Sunday, is a big day for our neighbouring club in Fermanagh, Derrygonnelly Harps, who play in an Ulster club final for the first time. They have a tough assignment, up against Down champions, Kilcoo, who would have notions of winning the All-Ireland club title this year. Indeed, I see they are the bookies' favourites now.

I would love to see Derrygonnelly do it. They gave Kilcoo their fill of it a couple of years ago in the semi-final and if they had had a freetaker that day they would have won easily. But this Down club side have moved on and I do feel they are a club that could go all the way.

The best of luck to Derrygonnelly and to their coach, Shane Ward, a Ballyshannon native. They have put a lot into football in that area, a small rural club, and they are a good side. But Kilcoo are a very good side.

Brian McEniff was in conversation with Peter Campbell

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