Hurling and camogie

Coulter hoping Donegal get off to flying start against Sligo in Letterkenny

Donegal veteran Declan Coulter believes the county has a healthy stream of young talent coming through
Gerry McLaughlin

Allianz Hurling League Division 2B: Donegal v Sligo (Saturday, O'Donnell Park, Letterkenny, 2pm)

IT may be only their first game of the Allianz Hurling League, but two points are vital to Donegal as they host Sligo in the opening round in O’Donnell Park, Letterkenny.

For Mickey McCann’s men are in a real group of death with Meath, Wicklow, London and Tyrone for company.

And there is no doubt but that McCann has already targeted this crunch opener as a virtually must-win affair.

Donegal were due to play UU in the final of the Conor McGurk Cup, but that has now been deferred to February 7 at the Dub in Belfast.

Donegal veteran Declan Coulter says the county’s entire focus is now on Sligo who will have 10 or 11 starters from the Easkey side who played in the All-Ireland JHC final recently.

“We are well aware of the quality and the big threat that Sligo will pose," Coulter said.

“Last year, they came to O’Donnell Park in a play-off to get into the Division 2B final against Derry and they made a great comeback in the second half and beat us by 1-20 to 1-9. They are a big strong physical young team and are very good hurlers.

“It was a very physical encounter, and they are very athletic as well and they are very youthful and hopefully we can bring our A game.

“I watched the Easkey game on the television and they really put up a very good show against a very strong Ballygiblin team from Cork.

“They sort of shot themselves out of it in the first half with those wides, but recovered well and those lads will have had their break and will be keen to go next Saturday."

Sligo have 12 starters that are under 24, but Donegal have five big strong young, physical lads who altered the shape and dynamic of the team over the past few years.

“Conor Gartland and Liam McKinney of Burt are becoming immense figures who are making the breakthrough," Coulter said.

“They are physically ready to play at that level plus they have the hurling to back it up.

“They are big strong lads and are very dedicated and very skilful and hopefully they can put their stamp on the team this year”.

Steven McBride, Oisin Marley and Shaun Ward from Setanta also bring considerable power and panache to the set up.

“They are all over six feet and Stevie has been around for a while and Oisin is an exceptional hurler and Shaun knows how to put himself about and they have all gelled quite well."