WHILE HIS PUBLIC demeanour suggested that advancement in the Dr McKenna Cup was top of his list for the early weeks of 2016, privately Rory Gallagher’s mind was always on January 30.
On Saturday fortnight, Donegal travel to Newry to face Down in their opening Allianz League Division 1 fixture.
Cork are in Ballyshannon a week later and Donegal will aim to win a minimum of one of their first two games, although maximum points certainly shouldn’t be beyond them.
Gallagher’s experimental side lost to Fermanagh last night, after losing to St Mary’s College on Sunday, meaning their involvement in the Dr McKenna Cup is over.
While his team lost two out of their three games, it will nevertheless go down as a useful experiment for Gallagher, who handed ten players their senior Donegal debuts this month.
That aside, Gallagher also used the McKenna Cup to try out some positional changes and had a look at Frank McGlynn at centre-forward, Odhrán Mac Niallais at full-forward and Leo McLoone at full-forward, among others.
It was all with the visit to The Marshes in Newry in mind.
“We have 13 under-21s involved – which is a huge number – so would I have been shocked if we’d beaten both Down and Fermanagh? Yes,” Gallagher said after last night’s loss in Enniskillen.
“We’d have liked to get out of the group and get another game, but we were always looking at January 30. One win out of the first two in the League is always the aim and these games are preparation for that.”
Gallagher gave first senior games to Danny Rodgers, Jack O’Brien, Eoghan Ban Gallagher, Stephen McMenamin, Kieran Gillespie, Caolan McGonagle, Ciaran Thompson, Stephen McBrearty, Micheál Carroll and Cillian Morrison in the McKenna Cup.
Gallagher’s big aim between now and June 12, when they cross Championship swords with Fermanagh or Antrim, is to get some competition within his own squad.
“We’re disappointed not to come out of it,” Gallagher said.
“The plan was to get as many competitive games as possible. After getting a win in the first game, we’d hoped to have come through.
“We wanted to get comp games where something at stake for the young lads and to get game time fort the older lads.”
Martin McElhinney and Anthony Thompson were the latest of the established names to make their return to action last night, but a black card just 11 minutes after coming in ended McElhinney’s night.
The likes of Eamon McGee, Karl Lacey, Neil Gallagher, Christy Toye, Colm McFadden and David Walsh have yet to come back, having been spared McKenna Cup action, while students Patrick McBrearty and Ryan McHugh will also be in line to return when the League rolls in.
Another man poised to don the green and gold again is Rory Kavanagh, who this week confirmed that he has decided to come out of retirement.
Rory Gallagher said: “We’ve known for about five or six weeks that he was coming back and we’re looking forward to getting him integrated again.
“His strength is playing around the middle, whether it’s in the half-forward line or at midfield. He has that quality.
“The door was always open, but we never thought that it was entirely closed.”Tags: