RORY Gallagher will give Donegal’s veterans a month to take stock of their inter-county futures, but the manager accepts at this stage that ‘a lot of new blood’ will be required for 2016.
Confirmation that All-Star goalkeeper Paul Durcan is to migrate to Qatar – where his wife, Edel, has accepted a teaching contract – has raised questions about is future in the Donegal shirt.
The Donegal town native, who transferred to Dublin club Ballyboden St Enda’s from Four Masters in April, will definitely be in the Middle East for next year’s National League campaign.
Beyond that, Durcan’s situation is uncertain, much like the future of several of Donegal’s experienced lieutenants.
Frank McGlynn has already indicated a willingness to return to the fold.
His wife, Diane, is expecting the couple’s third child, but the Stramore National School teacher has confirmed that he is ready to commit to another campaign.
“That’s great news about Frank,” Gallagher said.
“We had no indication that Frank was going to do anything else, mind you.”
McGlynn is 29, the same age as Neil McGee, who is also likely to come back for another go.
Several players – namely Durcan, Christy Toye, Colm McFadden, Neil Gallagher, Karl Lacey, Eamon McGee and David Walsh – are beyond 30 and all of them bar Walsh have played in excess of 100 games for the county.
McFadden and his wife, Levina, are expecting their third child, but McFadden has just had his best summer since the All-Ireland-winning campaign of 2012.
Midfielder Gallagher is not believed to be considering his future, but his manager says knows that the end is nigh for some of Donegal’s great warriors.
He told Donegal Sport Hub: “Sometime in the next month we’ll start to have those discussions with players.
“We’re very keen now than the boys get the bit of downtime that they need; a bit of normal life again.
“There is no doubt, I’d say, that some of them will feel that they have enough played. Leaving aside the age, there are some of them who have been playing for an awful long time.”
Gallagher has already begun the process of transition.
During this year’s Ulster Championship, Eoghan Ban Gallagher and Ciaran Thompson, members of the 2015 Donegal Under-21 panel, were drafted into the senior ranks.
Others who were taken in to train with the seniors included Danny Rodgers, Michael Carroll and Stephen McBrearty.
Gallagher said: “We had a few in over the last couple of months. We’re aware of the age profile of the squad and we feel that there will be a lot of new blood needed next year.”
Donegal can be expected to lean heavily on a conveyor belt that has brought about huge progress.
The county minors have won back-to-back Ulster Minor League titles and last year won an Ulster Championship and reached the 2014 All-Ireland MFC final, while the Under-21s contested the last three Ulster finals.
Eoin McHugh and Darach O’Connor were integral members of the Under-21 set-up, but injury prevented Gallagher from using them as much as he’d have liked.
McHugh was downed by a virus in January and was further stunted by the on-set of a groin injury while O’Connor – who started last year’s Ulster and All-Ireland finals – has been beset by knee ailments during 2015.
Gallagher said: “They are certainly two players who’ll be at the top of the priority list for next year.
“There has been a good crop of players developing in Donegal over the past couple of years and we intent to put some of our focus on them. We’d like to engage them in some strength and conditioning work over the next couple of months to gauge where they’re at.”
Donegal’s involvement in the 2015 Championship came to an end at Croke Park on Saturday when Mayo struck them down with a 2-13 to 0-11 beating.
Aidan O’Shea got behind Neil McGee for a goal right on the stroke of half-time and a fortuitous second by Lee Keegan, just four minutes into the second half, brought the curtain down on Donegal’s season.
Gallagher said: “It was very disappointing. Right up until Aidan O’Shea’s goal just before half-time we were doing alright.
“It was nip-and-tuck and I was starting to think: ‘There’s only one point in it and we’ll be playing with a little bit of a breeze in the second half’.
“It was disappointing the way things panned out, especially the fact that Mayo were so comfortable in the last 10-15 minutes.
“The second goal gave them a cushion and they were quite content to sit back on what they had then.”
With Eamon McGee having sustained an ankle injury in the previous weekend’s 3-12 to 0-11 qualifier win over Galway, Gallagher earmarked Neil McGee to go toe-to-toe with O’Shea.
A heavy wrap to the chest left Neil McGee with respiratory trouble and he was withdrawn in the second half and has since been x-rayed,
Gallagher said: “Neil got a bang during the first half. He was having a great game on Aidan up to that point.
“He was having a little trouble breathing after the bang he got, but he felt ok to continue.
“It was just that one ball and that one fetch that caught us out.”Tags: