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Trio in shock departure from Donegal backroom team

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Rory Gallagher pictured with Jim McGuinness after the 2012 All-Ireland final.

Rory Gallagher pictured with Jim McGuinness after the 2012 All-Ireland final.

BY CHRIS MCNULTY

DONEGAL has been rocked with the shock news that Rory Gallagher, Maxi Curran and Francie Friel are no longer part of the backroom of the Donegal senior football team.

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A statement from the Donegal County Board, released by PRO Jim Quinn at close to 11.30pm tonight, appears to indicate that the decision was that of the manager, Jim McGuinness, in a bid to freshen up his group.

“CLG Dhún na nGall were informed this morning by Senior Football Team Manager, Jim McGuinness of his intention to make changes in his management & support team,” the statement read.

“He subsequently confirmed that Rory Gallagher & Maxi Curran will not be involved in the Donegal management team for the 2014 season. Francie Friel, who was involved in the backroom team, will also not be involved in 2014.”

Earlier today, it had been expected that the statement would suggest that the trio had stepped down citing ‘work and family commitments’ as the reason.

However, tonight’s statement pours cold water on that.

The news comes just three days after it was announced that Jim McGuinness had agreed to stay on as the manager for 2014. McGuinness confirmed, following a lengthy meeting with County Chairman Sean Dunnion on Saturday in Glenties, that he was remaining on to see out the fourth year of his four-year tenure in the position.

On Sunday, McGuinness attended the Donegal SFC quarter-final between Kilcar and
Glenswilly in Ballybofey and gave a subsequent media interview, during which he was guarded as to the make up of his backroom team.

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“We will look at everything in the next number of weeks,” he said.

However, the Donegal management held a subsequent meeting at which McGuinness outlined his plans for the 2014 campaign.

Just what has happened between then and this morning, when the Board claims it was informed by McGuinness of the changes, is unclear. Indeed, it seems strange that there is the suggestion from those close to the departed trio that the decision was theirs, and they had arrived at the conclusion that they wouldn’t be part of the set-up for 2014 at Sunday’s management meeting.

Ex-Fermanagh star Gallagher was appointed assistant manager at the start of 2011, McGuinness’s first as manager, while Downing’s man Curran, the video analyst, had been alongside McGuinness since the 2010 Under 21 campaign.

Termon native Friel, meanwhile, was a new appointment for the 2013 campaign as a kit man. It is understood that there could be further changes to the backroom team, but the goalkeeping coach, Pat Shovelin is one member who has confirmed that he is to remain in his position.

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