THIS week in Donegal we kick off the Senior Football Championship. A few weeks back very few would have believed that this was even possible but due to the hard work and sacrifice of players, mentors, officials and supporters, we are now in a position to play our games.
Since the easing of restrictions and the return of collective training, there is no doubt that it has been a struggle.
At this time of year where are used to having a number of months of hard slog under our belts and normally we would be coming towards the end of our league campaign. This year is completely different but we are not complaining. Teams have been doing what they can in order to get their players in the best physical condition.
I mentioned here a number of weeks back, when we got word that the championship would be going ahead, that one of the main areas of concern would be players staying injury free. I can only speak for our own club and admit that at times we have struggled in this area. It’s only natural after a long lay-off that the body will take some time before it starts to move properly again.
That would be fine if we had plenty of time but given the short window that teams have to get their players ready, this will pose a huge threat to a team’s progression.
If you keep an eye on all the club championships in all the various different counties, a pattern will emerge. That pattern will be that the winners of each county title will more than likely be those teams lucky enough to keep their key players fresh and injury free.
Overall we would be happy enough with how things have gone. We had a three- or four-week period when we could train really hard and over the last number of weeks more emphasis has been placed on game-type situations or trying to get in the odd challenge game.
Naturally you’re never going to be like you would normally be at this time of year if you had a full year’s training under your belt, but all teams are in the same position.
The last few weeks have been about focusing on your touch and your game awareness. Games will now come thick and fast and with each passing week we should see teams grow stronger.
Like all championships a good start is key here in Donegal and we, like every other team, will be looking to get off to a good start to the weekend.
Our first game is against Four Masters up in Donegal town so we are well aware of the challenge that lies ahead. We haven’t played Four Masters much over the last number of years but from past experience we know that we will get nothing easy up there.
During my earlier days, Four Master had a lot of success and always produced some great ball-players. No doubt they will see us as a scalp that they would love to take so we will have to bring our A game in order to come away with the two points.
As a player I have always loved championship week. There is just something different about the atmosphere within the club. Players are buzzing as they know that all the sacrifices and all the training have brought them to this point. There is nowhere else you would want to be.
The way our championship has been structured this year, you we will effectively be playing week in, week out so most of the hard work has been done and now it’s all about sharpening your tools and fixing any issues that may arise each weekend.
I spoke here a number of weeks ago about how important it was that Croke Park gave precedence to the club championships and for once our club players get to play at the height of summer.
This is a massive boost for the club scene throughout Ireland and we really must make the most of this opportunity now that we have it.
More live club games will be shown on RTE and TG4, which is another massive boost, and if we can keep the virus at bay I truly believe that this will be one of the most memorable club seasons ever.
All that’s left to do is to wish every club throughout Ireland all the very best for the year ahead and let’s hope that this is your year.