BY CHRIS MCNULTY
HOT on the heels of Rory Kavanagh’s inter-county retirement this week, Donegal have been handed a timely boost for 2015 with the news that Anthony Thompson will be available for the National Football League campaign.
Kavanagh this week confirmed that he was retiring, thereby ending a 14-year association with Donegal that spanned 132 games in the green and gold.
There was concern that Thompson, now based in Essex, England, where he works as an engineer, would be unable to commit.
However, the Glenties man will return and can be expected to be involved in the League, which gets underway with the January 31 clash with Derry in Ballybofey.
“He started a new job over in England, but he is going to be involved with us,” Donegal manager Rory Gallagher told the Donegal News.
“We will basically work it week-to-week. Anthony will train in England and has strength and conditioning work arranged over there. Anthony always keeps himself in good shape anyway, so there are no worries in that end of it.”
Thompson’s girlfriend, Nicole McHugh, is a sister of Plymouth Argyle defender Carl, is also based in Essex, where she teaches in Woodford Green.
The Naomh Conaill player, who was a mainstay in the half-back line during Jim McGuinness’s four-year tenure, is able to fly from London into Knock or City of Derry airports.
Gallagher said: “Anthony had signalled his intention to play, but we had to work out the logistics of what would be happening.
“We’re delighted to have Anthony commiting. He has been very consistent for Donegal and is a top-class inter-county player. He has been an integral part of the set-up and will continue to be.”
St Eunan’s ace Kavanagh confirmed that he was retiring after playing 132 games for Donegal since making his debut against Cork in the National League in 2001.
Kavanagh was county captain in 2009 and he won an All-Ireland in 2013, Ulster SFC titles in 2011, 2012 and 2014, while he was a member of the Division 1 League winning team in 2007 and also won a Division 2 medal in 2011. His last game for Donegal was the 2014 All-Ireland final defeat to Kerry.
Gallagher said: “Even before I was appointed, Rory had indicated that he was going to retire, but I was still hoping that he might come back. We wanted to give him time to be sure. He’s a terrific talent. I fully understand and appreciate his decision. I had three wonderful years working with Rory – he was a great leader.”
The 32-year-old midfielder is 10th on the all-time list of Donegal appearances. He said: “I spent a lot of time thinking about my future since and deciding to retire has been the hardest decision I ever had to make.”
DECLAN BONNER will look to collect the first piece of silverware from his second tenure in charge of Donegal.