DONEGAL WERE BEATEN 0-12 to 0-8 by Fermanagh in Enniskillen last night as their Dr McKenna Cup campaign came to an end.
- Leo the inside man?
THE old chestnut of where to play Michael Murphy and where he does his best work for Donegal opens other questions that aren’t often explored.
The obvious markers are there for Murphy’s influence on the edge of the square, but both Jim McGuinness and Rory Gallagher – not to mention countless others – have highlighted the Glenswilly man’s impact around the middle of the field.
His ball-winning ability, his power, his vision and ability to bring others into the frame mean he’s an obvious candidate for a central role.
But then, who to play as the target man? Odhrán Mac Niallais is perhaps best suited to the number 11 shirt, but the stationing of Leo McLoone inside is something that could work.
McLoone, having taken a few months out, came back into the squad during last year’s Championship, but is back from the off the time. McLoone was ear-marked as a centre-back by McGuinness, but in the coming weeks a spell at full-forward might be worth a try.
- Kavanagh comeback dominates the terraces
ON MONDAY night, the whispers finally turned into a shout. Rory Kavanagh’s return to the Donegal squad had been mooted and rumoured ever since the launch of his autobiography, ‘Winning’ in October.
It had appeared as if the penning of that tome had, in a sense, closed the book on a comeback, but some gentle persuading by senior players and manager Rory Gallagher turned his mind.
Kavanagh confirmed on Monday night that he had committed to the Donegal squad for 2016. Supporters felt last year that the St Eunan’s man was a big absence in the team and have welcomed his decision.
“His strength is playing around the middle, whether it’s in the half-forward line or at midfield. He has that quality,” Gallagher said after the game in Enniskillen.
Kavanagh will don the green and gold again at some stage in the Allianz League and, it’s fair to say, it’s a comeback that will be universally acclaimed by Donegal’s supporters.
- McKenna Cup exit is no harm…
RORY GALLAGHER might well have expressed his desire to get out of Group B and into a semi-final on Sunday, but a failure to do so doesn’t quite represent a disaster at this juncture.
In the 12 Dr McKenna Cup games Donegal played under Jim McGuinness’s time as senior manager, they won just four of those – and that tenure didn’t pan out too shabbily.
Conversely, John Joe Doherty won back-to-back Dr McKenna Cups and Donegal didn’t set those summers alight.
While a semi-final might have been desireable, it wasn’t essential and Gallagher will be quite content to take his side into challenge games over the next two weekends to prepare for the Allianz League.
4…but it was still a worthwhile exercise
TEN debuts were handed out over the course of the three games and January wasn’t just a complete write-off for Rory Gallagher.
Danny Rodgers, Jack O’Brien, Eoghan Ban Gallagher, Stephen McMenamin, Kieran Gillespie, Caolan McGonagle, Ciaran Thompson, Stephen McBrearty, Micheál Carroll and Cillian Morrison all made their first senior appearances during the course of the competition.
Picture caption: Eoghan Ban Gallagher made his first Donegal senior appearance in the Dr McKenna Cup. Picture by Geraldine Diver.
Caolan Ward, whose only previous outings were in the same competition in 2013, had a solid campaign, too, while Peter Boyle came into the equation last night with Mark Anthony McGinley not recovering from a groin injury in time.
Gallagher has looked at a few different combinations of players and, if nothing else, his newcomers have been given a good introduction to senior football.
- Fermanagh could prove a tricky opponent in June
LAST year, Fermanagh improved their lot considerably. They won promotion to Division 2 of the League, won three Championship matches and returned to Croke Park.
They scored 2-15 against Dublin in an All-Ireland quarter-final and, although ultimately outclassed, Pete McGrath’s team battled to the bitter end against the eventual All-Ireland champions.
McGrath has made no secret of his desire to lead Fermanagh to places they’ve never before journeyed.
“Fermanagh have never won an Ulster championship and that is our target,” he said last year.
“Why should Fermanagh not be able to stand up and say that our objective for next year is to win our first Ulster title. No other Ulster county has that as their objective – but we have.
“We have the players to do it. I don’t say that with any kind of arrogance, I say it with belief, total belief.”
He’s started well, with three wins out of three – and there is the growing sense that Rory Gallagher will be keeping more than a close eye on the progress of his native county men ahead of a possible meeting on June 12.Tags: