DONEGAL FORWARD Leo McLoone reckons the Ulster champions can negotiate an intimidating climb to a September All-Ireland football final — despite a daunting August calendar, if they’re to do so.
Jim McGuinness’s side will face Kerry in the pick of this weekend’s last-eight showdowns and may then have to get past fellow heavyweights Cork and potentially Dublin to lift Sam for the first time since 1992.
Donegal have pushed on from last year’s run to the semi-finals however, the Tir Chonaill man insists, and says the experience will stand to the side this season.
“Last year definitely would have helped us. Going forward we would hope to go a step further and you’d never know what will happen,” the forward told TheScore at the launch of the championship.
“I think maybe last year we won an Ulster championship and everything was a bit nervous and everyone was a bit anxious. I think this year everybody settled down and enjoyed the occasion a bit more. We had time to think about it and supporters, players and everyone involved enjoyed the occasion more so than last year.
“I think so. I think our time out in Croke Park last year will definitely have helped. That bit of experience. We are used to the surroundings and so on. I think it will definitely help that way.”
Donegal have already achieved one objective this season, according to McLoone, but the Ulster side aren’t sated quite yet.
“I think our main goal at the start of the year was to retain the Ulster Championship and we have done that. I suppose you always want more when you are winning and of course we want to win every game from now on. That won’t be easy. Our focus will be each game at a time. We are not going to look any big games. The quarter-finals is our big game.”
Kerry and Donegal will meet for the first time in championship football at HQ on Sunday at 4pm, and McLoone admits after last year’s breakout campaign under McGuinness teams are now more prepared for their brand of football.
“Definitely. A lot of teams have been working on ways to stop our play, but I suppose the underdog too, we were definitely more underdogs last year. Maybe this year teams are watching out for us that bit more after winning Ulster last year. This year now again we will be under that bit more pressure. But as I say we will take it each game at a time,” he adds.