It’s Thursday already and, with the weekend drawing near, so too is the action slated for Saturday and Sunday. Mind you, the snow’s apparently on the way too, though the worst of the cold blast appears to be due to hit later on today and tomorrow so maybe playing conditions will be okay for the weekend.
There’s a definite Yeatsian flavour to the coming weekend’s action. On Saturday, the U21s are due to get their North-West Cup campaign underway with a Round 2 match against Sligo, which is set to take place at the Sligo GAA Centre of Excellence. Throw-in for that one is set for 6pm under the lights at Scarden.
While Mike Solan’s charges sat out last weekend due to Derry’s withdrawal from the tournament, Sligo got off to the best possible start in the competition with a 2-13 to 2-17 win over Donegal at Letterkenny (match report here). Saturday’s opener for our lads will, then, see them up against a confident Magpies outfit aiming to seal a place in the decider with a second win on the trot. It should be a decent test for them.
The following afternoon the seniors have their second FBD League match of the year, with IT Sligo the opposition at James Stephens Park in Ballina (throw-in 2pm). The college team got an awful mauling from Roscommon last weekend (a 24-point one to be precise, going under by 6-21 to 0-15) and their cause apparently wasn’t helped by the fact (reported here) that their Donegal contingent opted instead to line out for their county in the McKenna Cup.
I thought the colleges had first pick in January but given the haemorrhage of experienced talent from the Donegal senior panel in recent days, it’s maybe not surprising that they’d want all available players for their pre-season campaign up there. I’ve no idea what this means for the kind of team IT Sligo will be able to field against us in Ballina on Sunday.
The senior panel are only due to arrive back off their hols tomorrow – what a cold blast they’ll feel then when they do so – so it’s got to be questionable if many (or, indeed, any) of them will be called on to play for us on Sunday. Last weekend’s defeat to NUIG combined with the Rossies’ bountiful positive points difference from their thumping of IT Sligo means that an FBD final place is an extremely remote target for us so there must be a strong temptation for Stephen Rochford to continue with the same kind of experimentation next Sunday.
The advantage of this would be that it’d give last Sunday’s panel another opportunity to shine, while affording the 2016 panel further time to prep for the League opener early next month. Ahead of that, some of the lads could be eased back into action the weekend after next in the final FBD fixture, an away one (in Kiltoom) against Roscommon.
No doubt the Rossies will once again be hell-bent then to extend their January dominance over us. From our perspective, though, this tie – our first proper inter-county match of the year – is the ideal time to field something resembling a League team ahead of the opening round of the NFL a fortnight after that.
There’s no word yet on a panel for Sunday and I’d say that, like last weekend, there’s every chance that it’ll only be on the day that this news appears. Now that you’ve had some time to peruse the team photo from last Sunday, however, there’s no excuses for mixing lads’ names up, regardless of what team takes the field for us then.