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Lacey rails at lack of 'respect' for Donegal claiming teams 'are out to get' the All-Ireland champions

FOOTBALLER of the Year Karl Lacey already knows what to expect. When a county snaffles Sam Maguire for the first time in decades, they are embraced not just by their own but by neutrals too.

FOOTBALLER of the Year Karl Lacey already knows what to expect. When a county snaffles Sam Maguire for the first time in decades, they are embraced not just by their own but by neutrals too.

The season after September coronation is invariably a different story, however, and Lacey is convinced 2013 will be a case of "everyone's out to get" Donegal.

He doesn't subscribe to the theory that hunger will be an issue for the defending champions ... but they will have to find an edge from somewhere and maybe, it seems, they already have one.

"We haven't really met as a group and really chatted about it yet, but we know that every team will be out to beat us next year," Lacey told the Evening Herald.

"We have Tyrone in the first round and a few of the Tyrone lads are already talking in the papers, saying that 'Donegal aren't as good as we are'.

"They are at this chat already," he claimed, "but we're expecting that teams are out to get us next year and that's just the way it's going to be."

Warming to his theme, Lacey later remarked: "We will probably need to be the likes of Kilkenny before we get the respect.

"Donegal have always had different problems, even in the last couple of years. After Jim McGuinness's first year there was a lot of talk and criticism, even at the start of this year. It is something that we are well used to. It is not a motivation factor, not at all. It is part and parcel of the game."

Speaking from the All Stars football tour in New York, Donegal's centre-back dynamo is already plotting how his county might buck the losing trend of previous defending champions.

"I had a good chat with Henry Shefflin the night of the All Stars," he pointed out.

"We had got our player of the year awards, and I had 15 or 20 minutes with him. I asked him how hard was it to retain (the All-Ireland) and he said it was twice as hard to retain it than win it your first time.

"That is a challenge we are looking forward to. I am sure Jim will have us refocused ... he is letting us enjoy ourselves now but, come December time, we will be focused again."

Speaking of Donegal's in-demand and in-the-news manager, Lacey doesn't foresee any logistical problems now that McGuinness will be 'double-jobbing' as a performance coach with the up-and-coming soccer prodigies of Glasgow Celtic.

"Jim reassured right away that it was not going to affect us - any of our training sessions, any of our weekends, training camps, games.

"He is going to give the same commitment, even more than last year, so it was great to hear that," the four-time All Star pointed out. "It is a huge opportunity for him but the way that I look at it, the experience he is going to gain over there and will bring back to us - you can't buy that kind of thing.

"I am sure we will have training camps over there. We have access to Celtic now hopefully. I am not a Celtic fan but I suppose I will have to start supporting them now!"

Lacey is definitely not a supporter of possible moves to switch their Ulster SFC opener against Tyrone out of Ballybofey to neutral Clones because of crowd considerations.

MacCumhaill Park's capacity was capped at 12,250 by the Slattery Report earlier this year, but Donegal GAA chiefs believe they can increase this to 17,000 or 18,000 in time for next June's eagerly-awaited quarter-final clash. Lacey is adamant that the game should not be moved.

"We have been unlucky the last two years getting drawn in the (Ulster) preliminary rounds. We have done it the hard way and it looks like we will have to do it the hard way again," he said.

"A home draw is a home draw and that's the way it goes ... it's no different to an All-Ireland final if it is a sell-out. We don't want to lose out.

"I think it's very unfair that we are being treated like that, especially when we are the All-Ireland champions and we have not got the respect that we should have.

"We definitely feel that we should have a home tie," concluded Lacey.