Football is coming back. Tomorrow at 5 pm Joe McQuillan will throw the ball in for Tyrone v Donegal in the Allianz League in Healy Park, Omagh. It’s been a long wait for players who have been pupping to get back into action. Speaking earlier in the week, versatile half-back Paul Brennan spoke about how much the squad were looking forward to playing Tyrone this weekend “as there is no better place to be than out again competing against the best teams in the country”. While he eulogised further about their desire to get back on the playing field it was not ideal to be competing without spectators. The players missed the supporters last year and the massive energy they get from their fans especially when Donegal run out onto the pitch and at crucial junctures in games and he hoped they would be back before the season ends. Paul was also delighted to be back training with the squad – one of the most difficult aspects of training alone was “not knowing where you were at” as you could feel you were training hard but lacked a benchmark to assess your levels.
Manager Declan Bonner expressed considerable dis-appointment that Gaelic football and hurling were not considered elite sports in 2021. Covid restrictions made preparations extremely difficult but it least it was the same for every team. He hopes the squad, which are always a work in progress “take learnings from last year”. They have now moved on the the challenge of 2021 which they hope will be a big year for Donegal, starting with the challenge against Tyrone on Saturday. Returning to his palpable anger at inter-county GAA not being designated as an elite sport he emphasised how much time, effort and sacrifice top GAA players put into their sport and he is dis-appointed the Ulster and All-Ireland series will be a straight knock-out. It will be a very short season for many players throughout Ireland while elite designation could have provided the extra few weeks necessary for second chances. It is, however, “over our heads” and we have to get on with it and deal with the hand we have been dealt. On an optimistic note the three Gaoth Dobhair stalwarts Odhrán MacNiallais, Ciaran Gillespie and Odhran McFadden Ferry were back in contention for the year although only Odhrán was available this weekend with Odhran McFadden Ferry just back in the country and Ciaran has a few niggles.
The game is being televised live on TG4 with coverage beginning at 4.30 and will be preceded by Laochra Gael featuring Tyrone’s Owen Mulligan. International viewers can view the game on www,gaago.ie where it is one of twenty games that are available.