BY CHRIS MCNULTY
PAUL Durcan and Eamon McGee will make their first Donegal appearances of 2015 in Wednesday night’s final McKenna Cup Group B game against Fermanagh at Sean MacCumhaill Park (8pm).
All-Star goalkeeper Durcan and experienced defender McGee join the likes of Christy Toye, Frank McGlynn and Odhrán MacNiallais in the side, while there is a return for Mark McHugh, who missed Sunday’s win over Queen’s with a quad injury.
For Durcan, it will be his first Donegal game since the All-Ireland final and that haunting moment in the second half when his kick-out was intercepted by Kieran Donaghy for Kerry’s second goal.
The big Four Masters man had been instrumental in Donegal’s run to the final, though, with his portfolio including a decisive save from Diarmuid Connolly of Dublin in the semi-final.
McGee brings his considerable presence into the full-back berth.
Durcan, McGee and McHugh are joined by Gary McFadden in the four changes made by manager Rory Gallagher from Sunday’s 2-16 to 1-8 win.
Donegal have an outside chance of making the semi-finals, but of greater concern to Gallagher will be the performance against his native county.
Fermanagh have won two from two so far, but Gallagher will be looking to topple the Erne, against whom he tasted McKenna Cup defeats during his spell as Donegal coach, in 2011 and 2013.
He said: “We’ll go with something similar for Fermanagh. I know from talking to people at home they’re putting in a massive effort. They’ve been back training before most teams but there’s a big push.
“Pete McGrath was a late appointment last year and they’re going well with having beaten Derry. Fermanagh will probably be fitter than us but no more than Derry or Queen’s we won’t look at the opposition, we will look at ourselves.”
Donegal were only permitted back to collective training on December 29, just six days prior to last Sunday’s opening game against Derry.
Gallagher said: “The training ban doesn’t lift until December 29 and we played on January 4 so in some ways it would’ve been a minor miracle if we had been any better last week. We’ve had a few more sessions this week and we did a good bit on Saturday.
“They all started collective training in good shape after doing their bit of gym work over the winter. The experienced players are at a stage of their lives where thy know how to look after themselves and look after their body and they know what it’s about.”
Donegal: Paul Durcan; Eamonn Doherty, Eamon McGee, Declan Walsh; Eoin McHugh, Frank McGlynn, Ciarán McGinley; Christy Toye, Martin McElhinney; Mark McHugh, Odhrán MacNiallais, Gary McFadden; Daniel McLaughlin, Hugh McFadden, Martin O’Reilly.
Subs: Michael Boyle, Sean Hensey, Cory Gallagher, Joe Gibbons, Ryan Malley, Dermot Molloy, Willie Gillespie, Ciarán McCaughey, Eunan Doherty, Eamon Ward, Malachy McDermott.
Donegal Together For Yes will launch its campaign at 6pm this evening, Friday, in Jackson’s Hotel, Ballybofey.