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Donegal to train in solitude in preparation for All-Ireland final

By Declan Bogue

Donegal are set to fine-tune their preparations for the All-Ireland football final when they embark upon another lengthy training camp.

They have made arrangements to stay for five nights this week at the exclusive Lough Erne Golf Resort in neighbouring Fermanagh, bringing along a party of almost 50 with them that would include a sizeable playing panel, doctors, medics, masseurs and management.

The costs could be in the region of £17,000. Donegal are known to enjoy the largesse of some significant backers who have helped them cover the costs of similar endeavours.

While there, they will run another camp similar to the one in Johnstown House that saw them dismantle the seemingly-unbeatable Dublin team in the All-Ireland semi-final as they get ready to face Eamonn Fitzmaurice's Kerry in their second final in three years.

The Lough Erne venue has no football fields available to Donegal, but they could host their training sessions through the use of local club facilities.

Located a few miles outside Enniskillen towards the Donegal border, the Lough Erne resort is a high-end venue that hosted the G8 summit and world leaders last summer.

It's golf resort was designed by Nick Faldo while Rory McIlroy is rather famously its touring professional.

There are a number of team-building activities the group may consider while there for light relief from all the tactical training, such as raft-building on Lough Erne, Four by Four driving and Laser Clay shooting.

The hotel also has a number of purpose-built conference rooms, ideal for hosting strategy meetings as Donegal manager Jim McGuinness and his backroom team figure out how to decode Kerry on September 21.

Last month, then-Armagh manager Paul Grimley took his squad to Lough Erne the weekend ahead of their All-Ireland quarter-final against Donegal and they trained in Brewster Park, Enniskillen, on the Saturday morning.

This latest trip by Donegal will come as a surprise, given the length of time the squad and management have spent 'in camp' this season.

Over the Easter period they were in the Algarve in Portugal, for a warm-weather training week, leaving after the last regulation league game against Armagh and returning for the league final against Monaghan.

Final opponents Kerry were also in Portugal, visiting the Amendoeira Golf Resort at the same time. They have held four warm-weather training camps there since 2010.

Returning to Donegal, they recently embarked on a five-night stay in Johnstown House, Enfield, in preparation for the semi-final, when they pulled off a sensational win that brought them from 7/1 to beat Dublin to their present status as favourites for Sam Maguire.

Talking at the Donegal press event on Saturday, full-back Neil McGee was asked about preparing for the challenges of marking the Kerry forward line He commented: "We can only prepare how we can prepare. We can't factor in what they are going to do.

"We can just prepare our own team, whatever happens during the game we have to adapt and be ready for every scenario.

"We will get away now this week and boys will get assigned to who they will keep tabs on. It gives us a while to prepare for and a while to study for it."

Asked about the benefit of the five intensive days of preparation in Johnstown House, McGee answered: "There's been a lot made about the five days, but we could prepare like that for every game, the Dubs are no exception.

"Five days was maybe a day or two extra, but we saw it as a massive task, it was a task we knew we could do, but we had to have the right work done."

He admits he thrives in that environment, having been part of the International Rules travelling squad.

"It is enjoyable," the Gweedore man said.

"To experience that, you are more or less living with the team, getting proper recovery after the training and eating the right foods. It's just nice. You nail it perfectly.

"If you have to find any quality at all, you will find it in those few days. When you have a bit of extra work to do, that's when you can do it, or if you need a wee break, it's ideal."

Belfast Telegraph

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