Timing is everything, and Donegal’s delayed entry into this year’s championship has given them the perfect opportunity to enjoy a winter training camp.
Rory Gallagher is taking his squad to Tenerife next month for five days of intensive training after their opening Allianz Football League fixtures against Down and Cork.
Their last foreign camp was in April 2014 prior to a Division Two final against Monaghan in Croke Park, the subsequent defeat being blamed on the rigours of a demanding training schedule set by Jim McGuinness.
Last year they stayed closer to home, mindful of an early championship joust with Tyrone, but they will be one of the last teams out this year with a quarter-final against either Fermanagh or Antrim not happening until June 12th.
“This is a nice time of year to have a training camp and everyone understands it benefits your chances of success later in the year,” said Frank McGlynn.
Although they reached the league semi-finals last year, Donegal gave the distinct impression of a team not too bothered about the knockout stages, with Tyrone, Armagh and Derry all lying in wait on their side of the provincial draw.
That tough route hampered them later on, but the waters are expected to be less choppy this time round, enhancing the appeal of the Allianz League.
“Last year we were first out in the preliminary round and didn’t want the knockout stages of the league to eat into our training block,” said wing back McGlynn.
“There is a lot of fitness to be gained between the league and championship, so sometimes you might be happy just to consolidate your position.
“So much depends on your championship date, and we are focused on getting to the semi-finals this year.”
There are few better at turning defence into attack than McGlynn, who played an integral role in Donegal’s transformation from also-rans to regular All-Ireland contenders.
And if you accept that as fact, then it's not beyond the realms of possibility to suggest it might not have happened without Wayne Rooney.
As a 14-year-old, McGlynn spent a week training in the same Everton youth team as the future England striker.
“I played up front but there was stiff competition with Wayne there,” McGlynn recalled when helping to launch the Allianz Football Leagues in Belfast yesterday.
“He was one of the guaranteed starters whereas I was a fleeting substitute brought on from time to time.
“Even at the time everyone was talking about him. All the players and coaches knew that he was the one who was guaranteed to make it.”
Meanwhile, despite Benny Coulter's return, Mark Poland accepts Down's season could be defined by Marty Clarke's decision on his immediate future. Clarke ended a brief two-year intercounty career in 2011 to rejoin AFL side Collingwood and has not been involved since.
He returned home from Australia over a year ago after being diagnosed with Addison’s Disease and has not yet committed to the county – though delivered a reminder of his ability on Tuesday night, kicking five points in Queen’s University’s Sigerson Cup win over Maynooth
“It seems to be a general topic of discussion around Down. You hear rumours he is coming back and that he isn’t,” said Poland.
“I haven’t spoken to him in a while but if I thought it was worth getting on to him, I would give him a call.”
It's not known whether new Down boss Eamonn Burns has spoken to Clarke, but with former manager James McCartan now in charge at Queen's, it's safe to assume his potential return is a hot topic of discussion.