Lorcan O’Toole, the Donegal minor hurling manager, is looking for a change in mindset from the county’s young hurlers.
With the final trial taking place in Convoy on Sunday 15th January at 10 am O’Toole is looking for the best hurlers in the county to step up to the mark.
He laments that last year a number of quality players where unavailable for a variety of reasons.
Now in his second year in charge he is hoping that he won’t have to face the same problems in 2017.
“Hurling in Donegal is aiming to reach the heights of Armagh, Down and Derry and it is agonisingly close but cannot compete with these counties if it’s finest hurlers aren’t there,” O’Toole says.
“Donegal can compete with and beat Armagh and Down but only if the club players buy into it and commit to hurling as much as their counterparts do in these counties.
“Unfortunately last year some of the best underage hurlers this county has ever produced were unavailable to us.
“Worryingly, that trend seems to be continuing this year. The minors will have only one but hopefully two matches on Friday evenings in April this year. I am sure they can dedicate some time to play for their county.
“Donegal county hurling is heading in the wrong direction if this trend continues, undoing years of great work in clubs and development squads by their coaches.
“Where other counties seem to cope better with any drop out, Donegal suffers more as it has a smaller talent pool to draw from.
“Any absent player is felt sorely throughout the team. It is disappointing to see it fall apart at minor level and it doesn’t bode well for the senior set up either. Donegal hurling cannot afford to lose it’s talented youth.”
Having won last year’s shield final against Tyrone, Donegal were rewarded with an Ulster quarter final against Armagh. This was to prove a bitter evening for the Tir Chonaill men.
O’Toole says:”We travelled with 20 players that evening and lost to an Armagh team that were there for the taking. It was a real low point.
“The players that did turn up and play for their county were let down certainly and this year we want to avoid that. We want the Donegal hurlers to look after Donegal hurling and that’s why we are expecting all players to step up and represent their county this year.”
With Ulster hurling at arguably an all time low, O’Toole wants to restore some pride in playing hurling for Donegal.
O’Toole says: “The work being put in to hurling at club level is phenomenal and is rarely an easy task. There are many challenges and obstacles in the way.
“There is a small pool of hurling coaches keeping the game going and it needs more clubs promoting our national sport.
“We simply want to put our best foot forward and get the best players out hurling, it is up to the hurlers to help hurling in Donegal.”