EAMONN Doherty is now working under his third Donegal senior team manager, and he says the panel will use the McKenna Cup to learn about their new regime.
Doherty was first called up by Jim McGuinness in 2013, and then featured regularly under Rory Gallagher.
New bainisteoir Declan Bonner handed him the number three jersey on Wednesday against Queen’s, and he defended well, while also breaking forward on occasion.
Doherty and his teammates looked in good shape after a tough five weeks of training, and they are hoping to make the most of the pre-season competition.
“We’ve done a good bit of work over the last month, and we’re starting to pick up on things now.
“It’s a learning process for everyone really, and that’s what the McKenna Cup is for as well.
“There’s a lot of young fellas getting a chance now, and there’s still a lot of fellas to come back in as well.
“We’re using it as best we can, and trying to make the most of it.”
In recent years, Donegal have rarely played with more than two or three forwards in attack, and a lot of the time, Patrick McBrearty was left up the field to fend for himself.
Bonner says he wants to play a more attacking brand of football, and there was certainly more foot-passing against Queen’s.
Doherty has watched on as Dublin, Kerry, and Mayo have pushed ahead of Donegal in recent seasons, and he feels that they weren’t doing enough offensively.
The plan is to change that this year, and the St Eunan’s College teacher was pleased with the work of Donegal’s inside line against Queen’s.
“I suppose at the time being, we’re trying to kick it in quickly, and if you look at the top three teams, there is more kicking involved in their game, and it’s something that we didn’t bridge over the last few years.
“We were always ok defensively, but then going forward, we put ourselves under pressure sometimes.
“It’s something that we are going to have to work on, and it’s going well at the moment.
“If you look at the young fellas coming through, they are all footballers, and they can all kick the ball, so it’s good to see it seeping in.
“(Michael) Langan had a great game and he was showing all the time.
“Jamie Brennan is always showing, and ‘Jigger’ (Darach O’Connor) came on in the second half and kicked a good point. They have all been brilliant so far.
“Langan deserved man-of-the-match for some of the runs he was making, and the ball was sticking to him which is the important thing on a bad day like that.”
While the main focus may have been on the forward division, it was still a solid defensive display, as the team only conceded six scores.
Doherty says there is room for improvement, and the Donegal defence could find itself under more pressure in 2018.
“There are still a few things to work out, and we were a wee bit slack there just before half-time.
“We gave them two soft enough scores, and we should have had two or three more scores ourselves.
“There’s a few things in our transition that we need to work on, but that’s the challenge for the defenders now.
“The game is moving away from the packed defences, and we’re doing our best to stay with it.
“We have good defenders there like ‘Ban’ (Eoghan Gallagher) and Paul Brennan, who were in beside me today. They are good players and you feel safe with them around you.”
With some of the panel’s best players set to return over the next few months, there is sure to be plenty of competition for places.
Like the younger players, Doherty is also eyeing up a starting jersey, and he knows that the games against Monaghan and Fermanagh are a good opportunity to showcase what he can do.
“I’ve a bit more on the clock than some of the younger fellas, but I still have to do my best to establish myself.
“It’s a fresh start again as such, and it’s an opportunity to put a fresh stamp on things.
“That’s why the McKenna Cup is important for players like myself and the younger fellas to try and show what we can do and get a spot in the team.
“While the likes of Neil (McGee), Paddy (McGrath), Michael (Murphy), Ryan (McHugh), Mark (McHugh) still have to come back in, there is a chance for other boys to really grab the jersey themselves.
“Everyone is working hard and the energy levels are high. We have a tough week with two more games to come but we’ll do our best.”