BY CHRIS MCNULTY
DONEGAL manager Jim McGuinness is expected to field a strong team against Mayo in a challenge game on Sunday afternoon in Swinford, Co.Mayo (throw-in 2.30pm).
The game is to mark the re-opening of the all-weather pitch at the Swinford ground, which is being dedicated to the memory of Garda Robbie McCallion, who was killed while on duty in Letterkenny three years ago.
Two weeks out from their Championship opener against Cavan, McGuinness is likely to show a strong hand. The county finals of Comortas Peile na Gaeltachta take place in Gaoth Dobhair this weekend, but the players from Ardara, Naomh Conaill and Gaoth Dobhair are all to be in Swinford on Sunday.
“It isn’t far off championship so we need a look at the established players as well as trying some things,” McGuinness told the Donegal News this week.
“We’ll probably look at the squad at some stage too. The competition is very good too – it’s the League finalists who are playing well and who have made good progress themselves. It’ll be a good test of where we’re at.”
Christy Toye continues to miss out due to an Achillies complaint which has him in a race against the calendar for the Cavan game.
On the St Michael’s man, McGuinness said: “It’s hard to know. He has tried to go back once or twice and he has found it. We’re hoping he’ll be back on the pitch again this week, but there is no guarantee that he’ll be running on it.”
Neil Gallagher also has an Achillies injury, but he could feature against Mayo, as could triple All-Star Karl Lacey, who has a ‘small nick’ in his hamstring, which is improving.
Eamon McGee and the returned Barry Dunnion injured hamstrings last weekend in club games are are extremely doubtful for the game against James Horan’s side – who were, like Donegal, beaten All-Ireland semi-finalists in 2011.
McGuinness has held some in-house games over the last couple of weeks with a number of players drafted in to have the rule run over them by the management.
Among those who have attended training include Gaoth Dobhair pair James Carroll and Peter McGee, Dungloe duo Cory Gallagher and Noel McBride, St Eunan’s men Ross Wherity and Peter Devine, as well as Fergal McNulty from Urney, who was part of the squad during John Joe Doherty’s tenure as manager.
McGuinness said: “There have been a few in for the in-house games, maybe seven or eight in from different clubs. We’re getting a look at players and also getting a look at our own players. The door is always open and we’re always looking for players – what this does is give players who are playing well at club level a chance to come in and play against county players.
“It’s important to get a look at these players over two, three or four games before we make any decisions on it.”
For Sunday’s game, though, McGuinness is likely to largely stick with the squad that he’s had since the turn of the year.
Sunday’s will be a poignant occasion too as Garda McCallion is remembered. Robbie McCallion won an Intermediate final in 1999 and represented Mayo at U21 and senior level.
Sunday’s events start at 12.30pm with a game between Swinford and a Garda Selection. The Donegal-Mayo game starts at 2.30pm, after the official reopening ceremony is performed by former Swinford and Mayo great Dr. Padraig Carney at 2pm.
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