BY CHRIS MCNULTY
THE 2014 Donegal squad jets off on Friday for a week-long team holiday in Dubai.
The holiday had been put back until this week after a clash with Paul Durcan’s wedding in late December.
The panel and members of the backroom team will be joined on the trip by the Donegal County Board Treasurer, Cieran Kelly, but former team manager Jim McGuinness will not be on board the plane.
McGuinness’s commitments at Celtic mean he is unable to attend. Celtic face St Johnstone in the Scottish Premier League before they meet Inter Milan in the Europa League the following Thursday at Celtic Park. McGuinness now has a hands-on role with Ronny Deila’s first team, for whom he works as a sports psychologist.
Last night, County Chairman Sean Dunnion indicated that all of the panel would be attending ‘unless there are any late withdrawals’.
The traveling party from the trip – funded by an €80,000 grant from Croke Park for reaching the All-Ireland final and the team holiday fund which gathered €110,000 – will return on Friday-week, just nine days before Donegal take on Cork in Ballyshannon in their next National League game.
On Saturday night, Donegal fell to a defeat at Croke Park against Dublin. Cormac Costello and Jack McCaffrey netted the goals for the Dubs in a 2-10 to 0-11 win at headquarters. It means that Donegal are one of six teams in Division 1 who now sit on two points following the opening pair of games.
“They’re heading to Dubai on Friday, but then we’ll step up the training and that was the plan always,” said manager Rory Gallagher.
“They’ll do a few sessions out in Dubai.”
On Saturday night, Colm McFadden and Neil McGee made their respective first appearances of the year meaning Gallagher’s squad is nearing full-strength.
Donegal resume with back-to-back home fixtures against Cork and Monaghan – and the players plan to return to winning ways in their next encounter.
“The plan for Dubai is to be fairly sensible,” said goalkeeper Michael Boyle, who got a taste of action on Saturday night when he came in for Paul Durcan just five minutes into the game. Durcan sustained a head injury in the incident that led to Costello’s goal and Boyle was in for a first League appearance in almost five years.
The Termon man said: “We have a couple of training sessions planned. It’s not really like a celebration holiday like we had after the All-Ireland. Some of the backroom team will be with us too. We’ll do a bit out there. It’s more like a relaxation break. It’s a good chance to get away for a bit, but we’ll do a bit of work when we’re there.
“We have to take it serious at this stage of the season. We’re smack, bang in the middle of it now and we want to be back ready for this next game. We want to get the points on the board again.”
His comments were echoed by Neil McGee, who said: “We’re heading to Dubai this week and it’s a nice break, but we will be doing work over there. We’ll just relax for a few days as well and it won’t be hectic, not like the Christmas holidays we’ve been on!”