Donegal open their Allianz National Football League Division 1 campaign against Kerry this weekend, as they look to put a disappointing 2017 behind them. The Tír Chonaill men came into last summer off the back of a promising league campaign, but were truly humbled by Tyrone in the Ulster semi-final.
Following on from that defeat, they attempted to reach Croke Park through the murky waters of the qualifiers, but fell flat against a rampant Galway side.
For Paddy McBrearty, it is all about putting that disappointing campaign behind them, but he did note that there was one positive.
“I think it was something we need to put behind us to be honest. The only positive is that a couple of young lads got a bit of championship experience, but it probably wasn’t the kind of experience they would have wanted. But hopefully that drives them on for the coming summer.”
The young cohort of players who picked up an Ulster title at the U21 grade last year were exposed to senior intercounty football, and this was always going to be a difficult transition.
“It was going to be hard. We’ve lost so many bodies from the team that won the All-Ireland. It was always going to be a struggle to be honest. We had a very good League campaign. I suppose people were talking us up. We just hit a wall against Tyrone, we didn’t really recover from that. Galway really caught us on the hop then in Sligo last year, and that was the end of our summer really.”
All in all, the success they have experienced can certainly stand to them.
“Success breeds success, and I suppose Declan [Bonner] too knows who he’s dealing with, and they know who they’re dealing with in Declan. I think it’s going to be a fairly smooth transition. Declan, too, won an All-Ireland in 1992. There’s a lot of respect from the older players towards him too.
“It’s going to take a bit of time for them, to integrate. They’ve had success at minor and U21 level, and probably see themselves as just slotting in at inter-county football. It’s going to take some time, but I’ve all the faith in the world in them.”
Last year, Donegal had a promising spring but failed to peak in the summer. This year, the challenge is to keep up that standard throughout the season.
“We put a big emphasis on the League last year in terms of our fitness. This year, it’s about trying to retain it as best we can, and trying to peak in the summer months. It was a learning curve last year to be honest.”
New manager Bonner will be eager to use the Allianz League as a springboard for the summer ahead of their Championship opener against Cavan.
McBrearty was speaking at the launch of the Allianz National Football League.