DONEGAL’s Christy Ring debut didn’t quite go to plan last week but Sean McVeigh was pleased to finally get the opportunity to test himself at that level.
McVeigh has been on the scene for well over a decade now despite only being 28.
He has spent most of his intercounty career playing championship ball in the Nicky Rackard Cup, while there was also a spell in the Lory Meagher.
However last Sunday, Donegal played their first ever game at Christy Ring level, and were unfortunate to lose to Wicklow by 4-12 to 1-15.
“It was a very long wait,” said McVeigh, who is now back living in Letterkenny after a spell in Barcelona last year.
“We actually won the Nicky Rackard back in 2013 but there was a re-structure the following year and we didn’t get to go up.
“Getting the chance to play in the Christy Ring was class and it’s something we have been working towards for years.
“It’s funny because you see young lads coming in for their debut in the Christy Ring and they don’t know how lucky they are.
“It’s great for them, and it’s up to the whole group to keep driving on our standards now, and make sure we’re playing in the Christy Ring again next year.”
Donegal were clear underdogs for their opener in O’Donnell Park, but they battled well against Wicklow.
Mickey McCann’s men established an early lead, but the Garden county hit 2-3 in quick succession after the restart to take control.
“Obviously we were disappointed not to get anything from last week’s game after playing so well.
“We were 1-5 to 0-1 up at one stage and everything was going to plan.
“But we dropped off for a five or six minute spell and we were punished.
“We conceded two goals and that’s what cost us the game. In some ways, that game summed up our season.
“We did keep battling and clawed it back to one point, but it just wasn’t enough.”
It’s been well documented that the hurlers are lining out without some of their best players this season.
Kevin Campbell, Jamesie Donnelly and Enda McDermott called time on their intercounty careers at the end of last season, while Gerard Gilmore, Davin Flynn, and Bernard Lafferty are not available this term.
When you add in Declan Coulter’s injury and the knock Lee Henderson picked up last week, Donegal are without a wealth of experience.
However, the show must go on, and McVeigh, Danny Cullen and Joe Boyle are among those trying to push the team forward.
“Obviously at the start of the year when everyone is getting back together, you’re disappointed when some players don’t commit for whatever reason.
“But you just have to move on. Donegal hurling doesn’t stop – it keeps going.
“We have played a lot of young lads, and they have been in Division 2B and the Christy Ring Cup and they are more than holding their own.
“We’re happy enough with how things are going. We have a couple of injuries which is bad luck, but we’re building with a new squad and there is a good spirit within the squad.”
It is a much changed panel this year, and that has led to more representation for McVeigh’s club, St Eunan’s.
He is joined in the squad by Conor Parke, Ryan Hilferty, Thomas Harnett, Sean Halvey, Colm Flood, and Conor O’Grady, and that demonstrates the good work that the Cathedral town club are doing in promoting hurling.
“There’s seven of us on the panel now which is good to see.
“Ryan Hilferty came on for his debut last week and was really good. He’s been going very well at training.
“Colm Flood also came on, and ‘Parky’ is flying in the corner.
“We have a very young squad with St Eunan’s as well, but I suppose to see that representation on the county team bodes well for the future, and it’s up to the boys now to keep improving and cementing their place in the team.”
Derry got their Christy Ring Cup campaign off to a very impressive start when they defeated Down by nine points.
Donegal battled well against the Oak Leaf county when the sides met in the league in Ballinascreen, before the home side ran out comfortable 3-18 to 0-12 winners.
Derry failed to defeat Wicklow when they met in the Division 2B League Final, but that doesn’t necessarily mean Donegal will push their neighbours close this Saturday when they meet at 3pm at Owenbeg.
“Hurling can be a funny game, and different match-ups can bring out different strengths and weaknesses in the team.
“I suppose all we can really judge it on was the league game when they beat us.
“It was level at half-time and we were playing well, but then we gave away a couple of bad goals in the space of two or three minutes, and suddenly the game is gone.
“The scoreline wasn’t very flattering by the end of the game, and teams like that will punish you if you’re making mistakes.
“We just need to try and keep things tight and stay in the game for as long as possible and see where that takes us then.”
SEAN McVeigh admits that he’s looking over his shoulder as a new wave of hungry Donegal hurlers emerge.