THIS week sees the start of the Club Championship here in Donegal and yours truly is looking forward to the action getting underway.
At my age it gets harder to get into shape with each passing year and there were moments during the year when I seriously considered nailing the boots to the wall for good but, thankfully, I stuck it out and with each passing week I can feel the legs getting lighter, which is always a good sign.
Having slogged through the winter I’m operating at around 75%, which I’m happy enough with considering it’s only May.
After the first round this weekend, the earliest we can play our next group game in the championship is on the August 21 and that is based on Donegal exiting the All-Ireland series at the quarter-final stage.
Given that kind of schedule, it is imperative to plan your year correctly in the sense that there is no point in being at your absolute best in terms of your physical shape at this time of year because it is virtually impossible to keep that up well into September/October, which is when our championship will really warm up.
The plan has been to get in good enough shape to help my teammates get over the line before peaking again come late August. That kind of schedule is very difficult on club managers because it’s hard to get all of your players at the right peak at the right time.
There is no point in complaining about how the club championship is structured time wise because the powers that be in Croke Park don’t seem too bothered in helping make things better.
To think that no club championship will be played during the months of June and July when all of your players are home from college for the summer is ludicrous but it is what it is I’m afraid.
As a player you always love this time of year, I have just returned from training in glorious Maghergallon where the sun was splitting the rocks. Sure where else would you want to be? For me there was always something special about championship week with the club even when I played with the county I would get more excited about playing in Maghergallon on championship day than I would say running out at Clones or Croke Park.
That may sound strange to some people but for me there was nothing more enjoyable than playing in Maghergallon on a summer’s day when the stakes where at their highest.
I’m sure there a many more like me who got more of a buzz from playing for their club than they did playing for the county, don’t get me wrong I loved pulling on the Donegal jersey and did so with huge pride but I felt I could play with a smile on my face when playing club championship because that’s where I always wanted to be growing up.
As I watched my older brother Stephen playing senior for the club I wanted to follow in his footsteps. It was never a goal or ambition of mine to play county football, my love and drive for my club resulted in performances that drew the attention of county managers so I sort of fell into it, if you like.
Tomorrow my wife Sarah will take our son Fionn down to see the game as this could quite possibly be my last ever championship game at home in Maghergallon. Hopefully we will have a long year and grace many other pitches around the county but none will have the draw and attraction of Maghergallon.
I have has some fantastic memories and stories from my time spent on that pitch but all good things must come to an end so hopefully the wee man will catch the GAA bug when he is down and he can carry the baton from here.