Neil McGee wants Donegal’s young guns to develop a more ruthless streak with the Championship looming.
Donegal lost nine players from their 2016 squad over the winter months and the change has certainly been substantial.
McGee, who has made 157 appearances for Donegal, including 55 in the Championship, saw some long-time team-mates, like his brother Eamon, Neil Gallagher, Rory Kavanagh, Colm McFadden and Christy Toye call time on their inter-county careers.
But the 30-year-old full-back stayed put.
The spring has been good to Donegal, whose flying youngsters came within three points of a place in the Division 1 final, but McGee is rather more cold in his assessment.
“Overall we’d be happy, but in the last two games we had Monaghan and Mayo to put away – and we didn’t,” McGee says.
“The real top teams, the likes of Kerry and Dublin, would finish those games and that’s the level we have to get to.
“Playing against the top teams, we’ll take serious learning form it.” Sunday’s loss to Mayo in Castlebar was Donegal’s first defeat since the opening League game, against Kerry in Letterkenny.
Now, they put their heads down and prepare for an Ulster SFC opener with Antrim on May 21.
McGee says: “We’ll regroup now and get the Under-21s back in when their thing is finished.
“The young lads have a lot of work done. Training is tailored for the older boys. We’ll push it now for a few weeks before Championship. It’ll be a big step up in training.”
Donegal led 0-11 to 1-5 against Mayo on Sunday, when they recovered from an early Cillian O’Connor penalty, but they scored just two points in the second half.
McGee says: “We recovered well form the early goal and had them pegged in against the wind. We got a good enough start to the second half, but credit to Mayo they made it hard for us to get out.
“No matter when you play Mayo, they’ll have serious passion and hunger. That’s no excuse. We have a lot of young lads and that’ll be a big learning experience.”
McGee has played in the last six Ulster finals with Donegal and won three of them. The Gaoth Dobhair man firmly believes that the Tir Chonaill men will be contenders again in the summer.
McGee says: “The standards are in place for six or seven years. We’ve kept them and have driven them on. Donegal will be competing for the foreseeable future.
“I’m enjoying it. As long as the body stays well, I’ll stick at it. The hunger is still there too – that’s the main thing. It’s nice to see the new group of lads in.”Tags: