Rory Gallagher has named four Senior Championship debutants in the Donegal team to face Antrim in the Ulster SFC quarter-final at Sean MacCumhaill Park tomorrow (4pm).
Caolan Ward, Jason McGee, Micheál Carroll and Jamie Brennan have all been selected in the XV, released today by the Donegal boss ahead of tomorrow’s Ballybofey showdown with the Saffrons.
Gallagher has also given first Championship starts to Eoghan Ban Gallagher and Ciaran Thompson.
Gallagher made three Championship appearances as a substitute last year, but was a central figure all through this year’s League and has been included at corner-back this weekend, with Thompson – a late sub in the 2016 All-Ireland quarter-final loss to Dublin – is in from the start having had an impressive League campaign.
Thompson is named at midfield alongside McGee, a minor last year, who has also had an excellent 2017 so far and who has shaken off a recent virus to take his place.
Donegal are without the suspended Eamonn Doherty while Kieran Gillespie and Paul Brennan miss out through injury.
“It is a new team,” Donegal boss Gallagher said.
“There’s going to be a lot of championship debutants, and a lads with not a lot of caps, so to speak, so therefore it’s a relatively new start.[adrotate group=”91″]
“From the start of the year there’s been a different approach from ourselves as a group, from management team and players, from the way we would have handled things over the last number of years.
“We had an ageing team with a lot of miles on the clock, and we were a team with a lot of knocks, and had boys with other commitments.
“We went back to square one. We started training before Christmas and now we have 37 or 38 players who have worked equally as hard.
“There was nobody with a late start. We have worked very hard as a group and have put in a tremendous amount of time and effort. We have done a n awful lot of quality work.”
Donegal are heading into Championship battle without the now retired Eamon McGee, Colm McFadden, Rory Kavanagh, Neil Gallagher, Christy Toye and David Walsh and the opted-out Odhrán Mac Niallais, Leo McLoone and Anthony Thompson.
Gallagher said: “We’ve taken in a number of big players, and we’re fortunate that we’ve had good quality over the last couple of years at underage level.
“We feel physically in the air that we have lost out, because we haven’t won enough possession of the ball and we’re trying to change that.
“I think they acquitted themselves fairly well in the league, and any game that we didn’t win, it wasn’t because we didn’t have enough of the ball, it was because we didn’t use it as well.”
Donegal (Ulster SFC v Antrim): Mark Anthony McGinley; Paddy McGrath, Neil McGee, Eoghan Ban Gallagher; Martin O’Reilly, Frank McGlynn, Caolan Ward; Jason McGee, Ciaran Thompson; Michael Carroll, Hugh McFadden, Ryan McHugh; Patrick McBrearty, Michael Murphy, Jamie Brennan.
Subs: Peter Boyle, Karl Lacey, Eoin McHugh, Cian Mulligan, Brendan McCole, Martin McElhinney, Mark McHugh, Michael Langan, Darach O’Connor, Enda McCormick, Conor Morrison.Tags: