Donegal have more depth now - Gallagher
Published 04/03/2016 | 02:30
Donegal manager Rory Gallagher believes a lack of depth in his panel helped derail their championship bid in 2015 but reckons they have gone some way to remedying that problem so far this year.
The 2012 All-Ireland champions have made a blistering start to the league, winning their first three games which all but guarantees them top-flight football for 2017.
And they have managed to set the pace at the summit of Division 1 without yet calling on the likes of former Footballer of the Year Karl Lacey and Mark McHugh, while Neil Gallagher could make his first start of the year this weekend.
Both Lacey and McHugh are close to returns with Lacey ready to "play tomorrow" but Gallagher is keen to give panel members as much game time as possible and ensure the Four Masters man is in top physical condition for the championship.
So far Gallagher has used 25 players and he believes the patience they have shown with some of their younger panel members is starting to reap rewards.
A handful of the minors that reached the 2014 All-Ireland minor final are also involved with the senior squad and are seeing action this term.
"There's only a few of that (minor) team involved but we had them in with us last year and they have done well but it's big ask for them to make an impact at that age.
"There are other players that have been with us for a while and they are really starting to show their form now.
"They have been in with us for a while and have served their time and we are getting the benefits of that.
"When we won the All-Ireland in 2012, there were only maybe 16, 17 or maybe 18 players at a push that we were working off and we know from last year we didn't have enough people playing come the summer time."
While admitting the first three rounds of the league have been easier than expected, Gallagher insists their approach won't change as they prepare to head to Kerry this weekend.
"It gives us a bit more wriggle room but it hasn't changed anything. We needed to find new players because our squad wasn't big enough and that's what we'll be doing."
Kerry got their league campaign up and running with their first win of the season when beating struggling Down in Newry.
And Gallagher expects them to improve greatly with each passing week.
"I'm sure they weren't too worried by their start," he commented. "They were only back from holiday late on after Christmas and they'll be getting better all the time from here on.
"We played them in round five last year and they were going really well so we know what to expect when we go down there."