Much was made in the build up of Donegal’s championship opener against Tyrone of the contrasting league form the two had and what it would mean in the championship. Donegal beat Tyrone last Sunday and most said that the league had little bearing, Donegal being relegated and Tyrone being close to being crowned league champions. But look a little closer at Donegal’s campaign and while relegated it is not like they were not competitive in all games. They lost 4 games, three by 4 points and one by 2 points. They drew with the high flying Dubs and were the last team to beat Kerry in a convincing 1-12 to 0-6 display. So while they lost games and were relegated the competitive edge was there which was going to benefit them during the league.
Contrast them to Kildare who had what would be considered a good league campaign as they reached the semi finals. Kildare won their first three games showing good form in those wins before being well beaten by Dublin and then going on a downward performance and results level. Their semi final appearance can make them appear to be in good shape after the league while relegation for Donegal posed questions when in fact they were more competitive per game than the Lilywhites.
Jim Mc Guiness, while publicly stating his disinterest in the league, will have taken plenty of positives from their league campaign and seen what worked and didn’t work and this campaign did help them in their victory over Tyrone, even if on the face of things it appears that Donegal did not take it that seriously.
They left the league knowing that they competed with everybody, that plus the confidence that being All Ireland champions brings makes them a formidable force.
A league campaign that ended with relegation does not cover up the fact that Donegal are still the team to beat in 2013.