Donegal captain Patrick McBrearty says Sunday is a great opportunity to start their Allianz Division 1 campaign with a win.
Donegal welcome All-Ireland Champions Kerry to Mac Cumhaill Park, and preparation has gone well in McBrearty’s eyes.
The side have been training under new manager Paddy Carr and despite losing both matches in the McKenna Cup, Carr used the opportunity to experiment with his side, trying out a number of players who hadn’t featured for the County before.
He said: “It’s a new team, there’s a lot of lads that might be making their debut in the league on Sunday so there’s a feel around it that it’s a new but it’ll be 15 lads taking the field on Sunday and it’ll be a great opportunity for us to get two points.
“Training has gone really well, there’s a big freshness to the whole thing and we’re looking forward to the game now on Sunday.”
Despite coming up against the best team in the country, winning both the League and Championship, McBrearty is happy to start off the campaign with a home draw.
It was also reported earlier in the week that Kerry will be without 10 players that started their All-Ireland final win against Galway last July, including all six forwards, but the Kilcar man knows they’re going to be in for a tough game regardless due to the depth in the Kerry side.
“We wouldn’t pay much attention to that,” McBrearty added.
“Kerry, whatever kind of state they’re in, are always going to be tough opposition. They’re All-Ireland Champions and it’s going to be a huge battle for us no matter who they have on the bus on the way up.
“No matter who they have on the pitch it’s going to be a massive test because the boys who fill in for the lads that are missing are going to try and make a massive impact and impress Jack O’Connor, so we can’t take our eye off the ball.”
With Paddy Carr coming in as manager, the team are in a period of change, and are looking to right the wrongs of last season, including the Ulster final which McBrearty admits still stings.
Donegal were taken to extra-time against Derry in Clones, and were defeated by two points.
“We met as a group at the start of the year and we named out eight or nine things that we’d like to do differently this year.
“The consensus was ‘this is what we need to fix’ and we were only the kick of a ball away from winning an Ulster Championship last year against Derry.
“That one really sticks with us. We feel we didn’t play to 30% of our potential.
“But we’ve been in 10 out of 12 Ulster finals, so why can’t we get back there? There’s still good experience here and the young lads that have came in have worked hard and really been impressed with them.”
Donegal will take on a new look Down side in the quarter-final of the Ulster Championship, and with the increasing number of contenders to win the provincial title, the forward is aware of the battle that will face them come spring time.
But for now, he’s only looking towards getting a result in Ballybofey at the weekend and starting their league campaign on the right foot.
“Ulster’s a real battlefield now, there’s five or six teams that can win Ulster, but we can’t look past Down, they seem to have their house in order, so we’ll get to that when that comes around, but we’re only looking at this weekend really.
“But we’re looking at Sunday as a real opportunity to get two points on the board, there’s going to be a big crowd in Ballybofey and hopefully be a good start to the year.
“We have a proud record in Ballybofey, I know last we lost to Monaghan last year but our home games will be very important and we’ve three away games in Ulster, but we can’t look past Sunday.”