Donegal slam claims team 'too old' for Ulster Championship
Donegal selector Maxie Curran has slammed suggestions the team has 'aged' to such an extent that it will not be a force in the Ulster Championship.
Rory Gallagher's team reached the final last year where they were beaten by Monaghan, having taken delivery of the title in 2014, 2012 and 2011.
But even though several key players are now over-30, Curran contends the side will be launching "a massive push" for provincial honours this time round.
They await the winners of the Fermanagh v Antrim preliminary round tie in the quarter-finals and Curran is adamant the more seasoned brigade will set the tone for the team's championship campaign.
"We have listened to a lot of talk about this Donegal side being too old now and, I suppose, some of that talk has been triggered because of our poor league performance," concedes Curran.
"But these boys have shown a great appetite for championship football and I can assure that they will be up for the challenge. Maybe this will be seen as a last hurrah for the team as we know it but let's take one step at a time."
Rory Kavanagh (34), Neil McGee (33), Colm McFadden (33), Neil Gallagher (34), Christy Toye (33), Eamon McGee (32), Karl Lacey (31), Frank McGlynn (30) and Anthony Thompson (30 in July) continue to form the bedrock of a side that initially sprang to prominence in winning the 2012 All-Ireland title under Jim McGuinness.
Curran was a selector under McGuinness and has an intimate knowledge of the Donegal squad psyche.
"Let's just say the current mood of the panel would suggest they believe an Ulster title is within their gambit," maintains Curran.
"Obviously this is a very mature team but there is plenty of youthful talent in there too with boys like Paddy McBrearty, Ryan McHugh, Odhran MacNiallais, Michael Murphy, Paddy McGrath, Eoin McHugh and others doing the business for us."
Donegal also have resources on the bench that could help fortify them when the heat is on in the championship.
And Curran makes no bones about the fact that in this context winning comes down to fine margins.
"I think even more evidence will be provided in the weeks ahead.
"For myself, I know all about fine margins. I was involved with the Donegal side that lost by a point to Tyrone in the Ulster U21 championship final last year, with the senior side that lost last year's Ulster final by a point and was in charge of the St Eunan's side that lost the Donegal final to Naomh Conaill by a point."