THE last time Donegal and Dublin met was in beautiful Carrick-on-Shannon. The July sun in the sky. The boats on the water.
Páirc Seán Mac Diarmada. The cosiest of venues. The warmth of the welcome. And one of the longest press boxes in the country.
Declan Drake was there. And Nigel McCarthy and Noel Murphy of We Are Dublin. Pauric Lodge was in the commentary booth, one of many.
It was the TG4 All-Ireland Championship quarter-final. Donegal were good. Compact and precise. They made the ball work and took a collection of tidy scores.
They had Geraldine McLaughlin. She’s been long in the sport’s Hall of Fame. They also had Karen Gutherie in sharp form and Yvonne Bonner too.
Donegal won by two goals. They had the look of All-Ireland champions about them. Maxi Curran had done a superb job.
But, in the semi-final at Croke Park, Meath overcame them. Before winning their second successive Brendan Martin Cup.
Donegal and Dublin will shake hands once again. This Friday. St Patrick’s Day. In Letterkenny.
Division 1 of the Lidl National League. A long way from lovely Leitrim. Even longer from Croke Park, but an important part of the journey just the same.
The petrol tank on the Dublin bus must be hovering over ‘E’ now. The League has resembled a Daniel O’Donnell Road Trip, with visits already to Galway, Cork and Kerry.
But, as manager Mick Bohan relates, it’s all about building up the miles. Putting in the hard yards. Getting game time.
“We are looking to have a panel that will be competitive come the Championship,” he said. And he’s proving true to his word. Giving League debuts to a dozen players.
The Dubs are third. Donegal are bottom. But it’s the scent of the Championship that sharpens the minds. It’s live on TG4. Throw-in 2pm. After the parade. And before the Gold Cup.
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