McLoone insists champions Donegal hungry as ever for silverware
WITH each passing game, Dublin's win over Donegal in the 2011 All-Ireland semi-final looks more and more impressive.
That remains the only blot on Jim McGuinness' championship record as manager since he took over in Donegal.
And with a price of 3/10 about them winning the Ulster title for the third year in succession, that unbeaten run is expected to extend to the August Bank Holiday weekend at the very least.
Their All-Ireland win last September clearly stole none of their desire, with the opening Ulster SFC clash win over Tyrone showing they hadn't lost any of their customary relentlessness.
The Red Hand men had form having reached the league final, but despite starting without Footballer of the Year Karl Lacey and losing the likes of Anthony Thompson and Frank McGlynn, Donegal never flinched.
"I think that probably proves we have a good panel of players and that every player trains as hard as all the others," argues Leo McLoone.
"It gives other players a chance to show how good they are; if they're not on the field they can't do that. But they proved the last day, while losing Frank (McGlynn) and Tony (Thompson), the players that can come in can do just as good a job sometimes."
The 24-year-old is a clubmate of McGuinness' in Glenties, and was part of the U-21 side he brought to an All-Ireland final, when he first appeared on the national radar as a manager of serious ability.
Three years earlier, McLoone's minor team didn't register on the radar as they were dumped out in the first round by Armagh, having won the Ulster title the year before, and McLoone pinpoints that team as the seed for Donegal's revolution.
"Before Jim took over the senior job, I think some of the senior players were looking in and thinking, 'if we listen to this man he can take us places', and thankfully it happened."
Down are next on the list. Both teams suffered relegation from the top flight this year, but Donegal ran out easy winners in last year's Ulster final and McLoone believes there's plenty of appetite for more silverware in their camp.
"Down had a great win in Celtic Park. It's a very hard place to go and get a win, but we know how good they are. They've six very good forwards who take a lot of watching.
"Even from last year's game, it was a lot tighter than the scoreline reflected. I think we definitely know how good they are.
"But the more you win, sometimes, the more you want to win. We won our first Ulster championship and then our aim was to win another one.
"It's no different this year. We want to go on and make it three years in a row."