BY CHRIS MCNULTY AT CROKE PARK
EAMONN Doherty has a refreshing air of realism about him.
The St Eunan’s man was included in Donegal’s starting line-up for Saturday night’s joust with Dublin in Croke Park. It was only his second League start, having been in against the Dubs at MacCumhaill Park in 2013.
Doherty was in Donegal’s squad last year, but three McKenna Cup games and one appearance as a sub in Laois aside he kicked his heels for the most part.
New manager Rory Gallagher handed Doherty a chance in the McKenna Cup this time around and, while he didn’t feature against Derry last weekend, he was given the number 2 shirt on Saturday night.
You’re unlikely to find Doherty beating Gallagher’s door down demanding answers. He’s happy to bide his time and learn the trade.
“The amount of competition is unreal so any game time is a bonus,” he said.
“If I get a wee bit here and there and get to improve, I’ll be happy. I know it isn’t going to be an overnight job, just nailing a place. It won’t be like that because this team is so good and it’s going to be like that for a while, but I’ll just do my best.
“I thought that the pre-season and the McKenna Cup was going well. Whenever you look at the squad and the fellas who still have to come back. You’ve Neil McGee back in, Anthony Thompson still has to get back and you’ve Declan Walsh there as well.
“I’m aware of the competition here. I have to be realistic. It’s going to be tough getting game time, but I’ll keep at it. I’m enjoying it. I’ll keep learning playing with these fellas so that’s all benefitting me too.”
Gallagher informed Doherty at training during the week and the butterflies fluttered.
He said: “I was delighted when I heard that I was getting a game. You’re delighted to get any game time, but when it was in Croke Park, for my first time playing there, that was a big thing. I was thinking about it all week and just wanted to put my best foot forward.
“I just wanted to do what Rory and Gary wanted me to do. I just did my best and I’ll see what kind of feedback I’ll get from them now.
“I was excited because I knew my father and all would be there. When they were there, I was excited for them. A part of me was afraid that I’d be nervous once I got here. All the lads took care of me. The two McGees, Frank McGlynn and Karl Lacey, they’re all great and I needed that.
“It can be a big experience coming here, especially against a team like Dublin.”
As a member of the 2014 panel, Doherty will be boarding the plan for Dubai on the team holidy at the end of the week, but the Scoil Mhuire, Buncrana maths teacher says the minds will be on the next League game against Cork on March 1.
He said: “We’ll be doing a bit of training over there too, but it’ll be nice to get away for the wee break too. It’ll be a nice relaxed attitude.
“When we come back there are a few League games to look forward to. We’re in a good place at the minute.
“We have a lot to look forward to. We played well in the second half against Derry and we played well for most of the game against Dublin. We just didn’t take our chances when they came. The boys were competitive and it was a good performance. We’ll keep working, but at least we’re going in the right direction.”
The following week, on March 8, Donegal face Monaghan in Letterkenny – a game Doherty would love to feature in. He played previously for Donegal at O’Donnell Park against Tyrone in last year’s McKenna Cup.
He said: “It was nice to be there in O’Donnell Park because that’s where I learned the tricks of the trade. Hopefully I’ll get in against Monaghan. I’d love to be involved for the game at O’Donnell Park.”
DECLAN BONNER will look to collect the first piece of silverware from his second tenure in charge of Donegal.