EXPERIENCED DONEGAL duo Christy Toye and Rory Kavanagh have retired from inter-county football.
The All-Ireland winning pair have played 309 games between them for Donegal, but Donegal manager Rory Gallagher confirmed this evening that the pair have stepped aside.
Gallagher had been hopeful that the pair would be back for another go, but the experienced duo have called time on their county careers.
David Walsh, another member of the 2012 All-Ireland-winning squad, has also retired.
“They’re big losses in experience,” said the Donegal manager.
“It’s been outrageous, the commitment they’ve given to Donegal.
“We have been very fortunate with all of these players.
“Christy and Rory are two of a kind. We’ve become so accumstomed to seeing them in training and in games.
“They owe no-one anything and they’ve enjoyed their careers, especially the last few years.”
Toye first appeared for the Donegal seniors in November 2001 in a National League play-off against Louth in Enniskillen and retires having lined out 163 times in the green and gold.
Toye broke into a Donegal team that was threatening a breakthrough and he lit the touchpaper for Donegal in the 2003 All-Ireland semi-final when he scored a memorable goal against Armagh, although Donegal went on to lose the game.
Toye was troubled by injuries and illness at times, but played a key role under Jim McGuinness as Donegal won the 2012 All-Ireland, contributing heavily off the bench.
Toye was a real fans’ favourite in Donegal. His Championship debut was in 2002 against Cavan – one game before Kavanagh and Colm McFadden made their SFC bows.
Kavanagh inititally retired at the end of the 2014 season, following the All-Ireland defeat by Kerry and in 2015 released an autobiography, ‘Winning’.
The St Eunan’s man was coaxed back for the 2016 season, but has decided to call it a day again.
Kavanagh made his Donegal debut against Cork in the 2001 League and bows out with an All-Ireland, three Ulsters and a National League medal to his name. He exits having played 146 times for Donegal.
The announcements are really the end of an era in Donegal, following the retirements of McFadden and Eamon McGee in the wake of the All-Ireland quarter-final loss to Dublin in August.
The news serves as a blow to Donegal, who have seen Leo McLoone and Odhrán Mac Niallais opt out of the panel while it has since been confirmed that Anthony Thompson hasn’t returned to training with the squad.
Gallagher indicated that the door was not closed on a return for any of them at this stage.
With 16 new faces in his squad, though, Gallagher is keen to move on with what he has.
He said: “I’m really happy with the squad we’ve picked. We picked the squad in September. I knew these situations back at that stage.
“I’m delighted with the squad we’ve had. We’ve been working really hard. We have a lot of youth there and it’s all about moving forward.”