Donegal shaping up for future challenges
Jimmy McGuinness and his squad heading for the Algarve to prepare for championship showdown with Derry in May
Donegal manager Jimmy McGuinness: “Derry’s form has been very, very impressive and it’s going to be a massive challenge for us to try and go into Celtic Park and win.” Photo: Russell Pritchard/Inpho
His wife is calling it a holiday, but Jim McGuinness insists it will be a training camp – and the Donegal manager is not the first person to find himself defending the need for some proper sun before the championship begins.
It used to be that counties heading south at this time of year would have to defend the costs too, including whatever allowances are made for players taking time off work, although these days it’s become an almost essential if not acceptable part of championship preparations.
So, after ensuring promotion to Division One with Sunday’s win over Armagh, and with a fortnight before their Division Two final against Monaghan on Sunday week, Donegal will fly down to the Algarve tomorrow for a six-day warm-weather training camp.
The Kerry footballers have a similar camp planned in Portugal for the following week, even if the days will already be getting shorter by the time their championship campaign begins, on June 22nd. The Waterford hurlers have just returned from Portugal, again for the sole purpose of fine-tuning their championship preparations ahead of the May 25th showdown with Cork.
“One of the things about trips away is you get the chance to sit down and talk to players one-on-one,” says McGuinness.
“You’re also without the pressure of the lads going to work or going training or running home again. Everybody has their own little pressures at home as well, so to be out of that environment, and be nice and relaxed, is always good. And I suppose the bit of sun helps as well.
“It’s also good for us just to recharge the batteries after a hard enough league campaign, and just talk about football all the time. That can only be good for the whole group. . . .”
Indeed it’s normal for teams to train two or three times a day on such camps, and for Donegal, it will be all about developing tactics and strategy for their Ulster championship opener away to Derry on May 25th.
“Derry’s form has been very, very impressive,” says McGuinness, “and it’s going to be a massive challenge for us to try and go into Celtic Park and win that match. Hopefully the week away will give us an opportunity to streamline a few things going into that game, to work on things that we’ve been trying to develop over the course of the league, nail some things down, then move towards May 25th with a bit of intent.
“It’s nice to be looking forward to a league final as well, against Monaghan, so it really is good timing for us.”
Meanwhile Croke Park has clarified details of the second phase of the Football Review Committee (FRC) report, with regard to fixtures, after GAA president Liam O’Neill requested that county boards bring their views to the next meeting of Central Council,
During its consultations, the FRC encountered an overwhelming wish to see a radical improvement in club championship fixtures throughout the country, and with that a strong desire to see an intercounty championship based on four groups of eight counties.
There was also a strong desire that the provincial championships be maintained as an integral part of the All-Ireland championship series: while the FRC proposed one method for adjusting the present provinces into four eights, they have also agreed there may be alternative suggestions.
“The key is to reach the four eights structure,” said FRC chairman Eugene McGee, “and enable a more streamlined provincial and All-Ireland series, while facilitating the playing of club championship games throughout the country during the summer months, something whose absence was the single biggest criticism to arise during our nationwide consultation process.”
The GAA have announced an improved relationship with Samaritans, aimed at offering greater emotional support for people who are struggling to cope across the 32 counties. The partnership will see posters issued to every GAA club in Ireland promoting Samaritans’ service with links on GAA.ie to the charity’s telephone and email support service.