Donegal Senior Ladies are returning to Division 1 this weekend, where a huge challenge awaits them.
The Donegal Senior Ladies begin life in Division 1 of the Lidl Ladies National Football League this Sunday when they host Armagh in Convoy (2pm).
Micheál Naughton’s team won Division 2 last year and are coming into 2017 full of optimism.
Although Glenfin’s Yvonne McMonagle and Naomh Conaill’s Aoife McDonnell are in Australia for the League, the duo could be back for Donegal’s Championship assault.
Naughton will have Termon’s Geraldine McLaughlin, Nicole McLaughlin, Emer Gallagher and Laura Gallagher, as well as Killybegs’ Aisleen Cunningham and Four Masters’ Kate Keaney back having missed much of last summer.
“We’re in Division 1 now playing the best teams in the country,” Naughton says.
“The top sides are all in Division 1. This is where we will test ourselves and know where we stand for the summer.”
Naughton signed himself out of hospital on the eve of the Division 2 final last year as his team defeated Westmeath 3-17 to 0-13 at Parnell Park, with McGonagle scoring 2-5, Amber Barrett registering 1-2 and Geraldine McLaughlin helping herself to 0-6.
Naughton says: “Last year, winning promotion was our number one goal. This year, our big goal is to stay in Division 1. It’s no good in winning promotion if we were to go right back down again.
“Sunday is very important for us. It’s not only our first game back in Division 1, but it’s a home game and home results in this League are so important.”
Naughton has introduced some new players to his ranks, with Buncrana duo Caroline Gallagher and Paula McGrory and Termon pair Niamh McDaid and Lucy O’Flynn called in.
Naughton has also altered his backroom team for 2017. Damian Devaney, the former Sean MacCumhaills manager, is his new trainer while Adam Speer is doing strength and conditioning work with Tony Blake on board as goalkeeping coach and Oisin Cannon looking after the video analysis.
Sabrina Barnett and Marie McColgan are also on the backroom team with Glenfin’s Sarah Heron the team physio.
Naughton says: “We’re really excited to be back in Division 1 and we can’t wait to get going now.
“We have a very strong panel there now and there’ll be a lot of competition for places within the squad.
“They’ve been working hard and are putting in a massive effort. They’re going five nights a week; two in the gym and three on the pitch.
“They’ve been working with us now since the second week of November. Now, it’s time for them to go out and express themselves.”
Naughton is appealing for a big crowd to get along on Sunday to Convoy.
He says: “This is a huge game for us. We just need to get a performance right and it would be brilliant for the girls to get a big crowd. They’ve put in a big effort for their county so it would be great to see a big support.”