GAA – DR MCKENNA CUP
By Harry Walsh
WITH less than two weeks to go before Donegal begin their Dr McKenna Cup campaign against Derry, new team manager Rory Gallagher has finalised his new-look panel.
There are a total of thirteen new faces, including Eoin McHugh (Kilcar) and Conor Parke (St Eunan’s) who played in the U21 County final on Saturday.
Other new names on a Donegal panel are Ardara’s Ryan Malley and Eunan Doherty from the neighbouring Naomh Conaill club together with Ciaran McGinley (Kilcar), Kevin McBrearty (Four Masters) and St Michael’s goalkeeper Mark Anthony McGinley while the newly married Eamon Ward and Glenswilly team-mate Joe Gibbons are among the more experienced club players who have also made the cut together with another Glenswilly player Gary ‘Copper’ McFadden, who returns to the Donegal squad.
Cory Gallagher (Dungloe), Willie Gillespie (Naomh Colmcille) and Daniel McLaughlin (St Michael’s) are the other newcomers to the Donegal set-up.
Because they reached the All- Ireland final, Donegal are not permitted to resume senior squad training until next weekend – just a week before their opening game at Celtic Park.
As a result, the Donegal side which takes the field against Derry is likely to bear little resemblance to that which lined out against Kerry on the third Sunday in September.
Speaking to the Donegal News last evening, Gallagher confirmed that he had submitted his panel to the County Board.
The Fermanagh native also confirmed that Gary McDaid (Glenswilly) is part of his back room team but he declined to comment on reports that leading Ulster trainer Martin McElkennon had turned down an invitation to join the new look Donegal set-up.
“Let us just say that there were more than one inaccuracies in that particular report. I will meet with the players on December 29 at which point things regarding the make-up of the back room team will become that much clearer. They will be the first people to know.
“The panel that we’ve named is opened ended in that there will be players added to it should we reach the latter stages of the McKenna Cup while other lads will be able to use it to build up their match fitness.
“The squad we have named is a mix of youth and experience and we’ll see how they go over the next few weeks once we get back to collective training,” he said.
Donegal have been drawn alongside Derry, Queen’s University and Gallagher’s native Fermanagh in Group B of the competition.
Donegal will host Queen’s in Ballybofey on January 11th before Fermanagh visit Sean MacCumhaill Park on Wednesday, January 14.
Donegal and Derry are scheduled for two meetings in January. As well as opening the McKenna Cup, the pair also cross swords on the opening night of the 2015 National Football League. On Saturday, January 31, Donegal host Derry, still managed by former Donegal manager Brian McIver, in Ballybofey.
Donegal panel: Michael Boyle (Termon), Paul Durcan (Four Masters), Paddy McGrath (Ardara), Declan Walsh (Malin), Frank McGlynn (Glenfin), Odhran MacNiallais (Gaoth Dobhair), Martin McElhinney (St Michaels), Christy Toye (St Michaels), Darach O’Connor (Buncrana), Eamon Doherty (St Eunan’s), Hugh McFadden (Killybegs), Martin O’Reilly (MacCumhaills), Eamon Ward, Joe Gibbons, Michael Murphy and Gary McFadden (all Glenswilly), Mark McHugh, Eoin McHugh and Ciaran McGinley (Kilcar), Conor Parke (St Eunan’s), Daniel McLaughlin and Mark Anthony McGinley (St Michaels), Cory Gallagher (Dungloe), Eunan Doherty (Naomh Conaill), Ryan Malley (Ardara), Willie Gillespie (Naomh Colmcille), Kevin McBrearty (Four Masters)