NEIL MCGEE wandered back into training eleven days ago and saw the future.
The Gaoth Dobhair man, along with Michael Murphy, trained for the first time in 2016 the day before Donegal’s Bank of Ireland Dr McKenna Cup game against Down in Ballybofey.
McGee made his first appearance of the year as a half-time substitute against St Mary’s and will be expected to feature tonight when Donegal face Fermanagh at Brewster Park (8pm) in their final group game.
Sunday’s defeat won’t exactly have the alarms ringing although it does make qualifying for the knockout phase a little harder – Donegal must win by five or more in Enniskillen to have a chance of advancing.
Three-time All-Star winner McGee has been given a new lease of life with the energy and enthusiasm of the youngsters introduced to the squad by manager Rory Gallagher – including Micheál Carroll and Kieran Gillespie from his own club.
“The young lads are pushing us on and that’s a big lift,” he says.
“It’s great to go back and see that talent.
“They’re all working hard. There’s no doubt about their talent. It’s all about coaching them up to a level we want them at. This is a completely different level, but we have as good a talent as anyone in the country.
“We had a lot of young fellas coming in from minor and under-21. They’d have been used to dominating the opposition, so this (defeat to St Mary’s) will be a big learning curve for them now.
“It’s a big step up now and power and pace doesn’t just work as much as it would have. You have to use your head a lot more – and you need to be coached to do a lot of that.”
McGee is excited for what the future holds for Stephen McMenamin, who made his debut on Sunday and a player who is cut from a mould not unlike his own. ‘A good tough lad who has bite to him,’ was how McGee described the Red Hughs defender.
Bar Paul Durcan, who has relocated to Qatar for the time being, all of Donegal’s front line men are either back in action or will return in the Allianz League.
“There was never any danger I wouldn’t be back,” McGee says of his own situation.
“I’m getting there. I was only back last Saturday. I’m refreshed now and the fitness will come in a few weeks.”
Fermanagh are improving under Pete McGrath and will be a good test for the new-look team. Donegal have plan B to kick in should they not make it out of the group, so advancement isn’t quite as imperative as might have been thought.
But McGee says: “It’s a local derby and the Rory factor will add a bit of bite to it too.
“That’s what you want going into the League. It could be our last competitive game going into the League so we have to make the most of it.”Tags: