Peadar Mogan believes that this new crop of players has what it takes to again make a real mark on the Ulster MFC.
The St. Naul’s lad was part of the Tir Chonaill side that tasted provincial glory last term. He is just one of five familiar faces available to boss Shaun Paul Barrett. But with some exciting graduates stepping up from the U17s, the skipper is confident that the side can pass its first test on Sunday against Antrim.
He said: “I suppose you could say that, that it’s a new team. There were a lot of boys that weren't there last year. There are only four or five that played last season, and I suppose it's our job to bring the rest of the lads back into it, especially now coming up to the championship.
“It's a massive change because myself and Brian (O'Donnell) were actually known as the babies of the team last year. It's a big step up to captain. You're trying to help the boys, especially before games when some of them are nervous or struggling to deal with different aspects of the game. Hopefully we can go out against Antrim and do the business and just get over the line.
“It's up to us to use our experience and to say maybe slow things down, get on the ball and try and dictate it yourself. It's a new team and it's a young team, because we have a lot of boys that played U16s last year. It's a big step up for them. But everyone is dealing with it well and we're just trying to get it together.
“It's busy with the football and the Leaving Cert now in a few weeks and I'm in the final preparations for that too.”
Mogan, like his manager, knew that Donegal would target the league to get their largely new squad up to scratch with the speed and quality of football at county minor level. And while it took them a little time to match that, Donegal finished the campaign strong to secure the Ulster Shield.
The aim now for the players and management is to bring that momentum into championship. But Mogan agrees that this again is another massive step up.
He said: “We were starting to take shape in the league at the end. It is quite hard at the start of the year when you're mixing with the 17s from last year, and then the U16s come in too.
“But in the last couple of games now we've gained a bit of confidence and we've got a few results. The signs were very encouraging there in the end. Boys were starting to understand their roles and what we have to do. It's starting to come together and hopefully we can push all that on against Antrim.
“The first win in that run was actually against Antrim in O'Donnell Park. We were probably unlucky against Derry the week before because we were a number of points behind at half-time. We came back then and got level but didn't finish out the game.
“We learned from that there, and we said against Antrim, that if we got ahead, we had to finish out the game. Thankfully, we did and that kicked us on to get a few other wins as well.
“But we're well aware that Antrim are going to be a changed side because they were missing a few players against us in the league. We’ll have improved too though and got that little bit sharper.”
The huge expectation that surrounded 2016 and that side’s potential doesn’t seem to hang in the air above this particular side. Mogan though is adamant that the goals and ambitions within the walls of their dressing room are still the exact same.
He said: “I think there still is a certain level of expectation because people expect the Donegal minor team to now always do well. It's just trying to channel that, especially at home in front of a big Donegal crowd.
“It was tough last year going up to Corrigan Park because you didn't really know what to expect. None of us had played there before or anything. At least, we know MacCumhaill Park, and it's going to be a big day for everyone.
“It's all about hitting the ground running and it's about every man trying to win his first ball.
“Against Antrim last year, we actually had that opportunity and put it over the bar. If that had went in, it could have been a different story. Maybe that's just the way Donegal teams are – we left it like that for ourselves.
“We know we can't give teams a head start, and we have a habit of doing that. We did it against Tyrone and Derry in the league, and Antrim as well. So, we know we'll have to hit the ground running.”
Mogan (18), given his experiences already at minor level and indeed his performances in last season’s success, was the obvious candidate for the captain’s armband when it was handed out.
He said: “We had a chat and then SP rang me. It's a great honour. I suppose it's something you dream of when you're growing up. You always think it would be great to captain your county.
“SP has been very good and he has great faith in me. I just try my best to put it out for him and the lads on the field.”
Mogan acted as a roaming forward in 2016, dropping back and sweeping in between the lines of defence and midfield. He’s not giving away what exactly Barrett is asking of him this term but you’d imagine it’ll be something similar once again.
“Normally, I would drop back in front of the full-back line and most teams would play a sweeper now. It gives me a free role. I like to be free and go wherever I feel I need to and roam around the field picking up as much ball as I can. We’ll just have to wait until the weekend to see what the plan is this time out.”
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