THE Donegal League Oscar Traynor season swings into action on Sunday afternoon when the Cavan Monaghan League are the visitors to The Moss, Drumoghill, kick off 1.30pm.
Last season, Donegal reached the semi-final stages of the Inter League competition where they lost out 3-1 in Clare and they’re hopeful of going one better this time around.
Brian Dorrian (St Catherine’s) remains team manager while his three assistants Peter Doherty (Milford United), Tommy McFadden (Glenea United) and Mark Curran (Rathmullan Celtic) have also committed to another year as have goalkeeping coach Ian Strain and physio Mickey McGlynn, both members of the Milford United club.
However, the 2016/17 squad shows twelve changes to that which did battle twelve months ago. One of the ‘new’ faces is Lifford Celtic goalkeeper Dylan Early.
“Dylan must be thirty nine or forty and he played for Finn Harps when he was eighteen or so. The hunger’s still there though which is great to see,” assistant manager Peter Doherty explained.
“We’ve also brought in both Micheal Doherty and Raymond Foy who have played senior football while there’s a few younger faces in there too like Ciaran McGeady from Glenea,” he added.
With two group training sessions arranged for this week, Doherty said that the Donegal League squad are well primed for the task at hand.
“We’ve played a lot of in-house trial games for the lads to get used to our shape and for us to see what they could do. We also played a number of challenge games, including matches against Cockhill Celtic, Derry City and Fanad United and we’re happy with where we’re at,” he said.
Wins against current Ulster Senior League champions Cockhill and Fanad will have given the squad a timely boost ahead of a match against opposition that Donegal have fared well against in recent times, winning 5-0 away last year and 2-1 (h) twelve months earlier.
“They were all over us in the opening twenty minutes last year and we should have been two down before we scored two quick goals ourselves which drained the confidence out of them. There’s no easy games in this competition,” he said.
As it’s Donegal’s only home game in the group stages – with trips to Inishowen and Sligo/Leitrim to come – it’s important that they open with a win on Sunday.
“Last year we fell short (against Clare) as we made too many mistakes on the day and you can’t afford to do that at that level. Our aim this year, as always, is to get out of the group and then we’ll see where we can take it,” he said.
Drumoghill Celtic midfielder Chris Malseed will wear the captain’s armband once more this year, but with experienced colleagues around him like Benny Bonner (Drumkeen United), Raymond Foy (Castlefin Celtic), Gary Merritt (Milford Utd) and Richie Moore (Drumoghill Celtic) they have leaders all over the pitch.
“We’ve lost some lads this year because they’ve moved into Intermediate football while others were unable to give it the required time through work and family commitments – it’s a big commitment for a junior player – but we’re happy with the final squad which we’ve settled on,” he said.
Apart from Damien Crossan (Kildrum Tigers) who has a cracked rib, Dorrian has a full panel of players available for selection for Sunday’s game at The Moss.
“We played there three or four times last year. The dimensions suit our style. We like to get the ball down and play it about. We like to play good football,” Doherty said.
With all top flight games in the Donegal League cancelled this weekend in preparation for Sunday’s game, league officials will be hoping for a good attendance at The Moss.
Donegal Oscar Traynor Squad 2016/17:
Mark Gallagher (Rathmullan Celtic), Dylan Early (Lifford Celtic), Joe Coll (Glenea Utd), Benny Bonner (Drumkeen Utd), Ryan Shields (Kilmacrennan Celtic), James Mailey (Kildrum Tigers), Jamie Boyle (Gweedore Celtic), Ray Quinn (Drumoghill Celtic), Paul Sweeney (Glenea Utd), Chris Malseed (Drumoghill Celtic), Philip Whyte (Drumoghill Celtic), Micheal Doherty (Lagan Harps), Raymond Foy (Castlefin Celtic), Kevin Doran (Rathmullan Celtic), Damian Crossan (Kildrum Tigers), Glen Gallagher (Lagan Harps), Kyle Black (Milford Utd), Gary Merritt (Milford Utd), Gavin McGlanaghey (Lagan Harps), Richie Moore (Drumoghill Celtic), Ciaran McGeady (Glenea Utd). Manager Brian Dorrian. Assistant Managers: Peter Doherty, Tommy McFadden and Mark Curran. Goalkeeping Coach Ian Strain and Physio Mickey McGlynn