CONAL Sheridan is having to conduct his own version of the Loaves and Fishes around Magheragallon these days.
After falling to a home defeat in their opening Championship fixture against Glenswilly at the end of May, the Omagh native is acutely aware that Gaoth Dobhair are now in must-win territory as they prepare to face Sean MacCumhaills in Ballybofey on Saturday evening (throw-in 7pm).
While youngsters Cian Mulligan and Gavin McBride have returned from spells in America and will be in contention, Sheridan still has a number of stellar names unavailable.
Goalkeeper Christopher Sweeney and former All-Star Kevin Cassidy (pictured above) have been Stateside, as have Kieran Gillespie and Niall Friel. None of that quartet will be in the squad, nor will Neil McGee, who misses out because of a rib injury.
Johnny Harkin is another on Sheridan’s lengthy absent list which now also includes midfielders Dan McBride and Michael McKelvey.
Following the advancement of the Gaoth Dobhair minors into the county semi-finals – after their win over St Eunan’s in Monday’s Northern Board final – Sheridan has also decided against deploying any of the minors, meaning the roster will also be minus the likes of Michel Carroll, Dáire Ó Baoill., Naoise Ó Baoill and Gary McFadden.
“We’d be hopeful that we’d have enough good senior men to get us over the line here,” Sheridan told Donegal Sport Hub.
“It’s great that we have Eamon (McGee) and Odhrán (Mac Niallais) back on board for this weekend. They’re a great help.
“This is must win for us. It’s good, old-fashioned Championship and there are no more bites at it after this weekend – this is the way Championship football should be so hopefully the boys will rise to it.”
Sheridan has had spells in backrooms teams at county level with Fermanagh, Derry, Tyrone and Cavan.
In 2004, he was the team trainer of Fermanagh when, under Charlie Mulgrew’s management, the Erne County reached the All-Ireland semi-final.
Cassidy had been player-manager last year, but it was to Sherisan they turned in February when appointing a new boss.
Sheridan said: “It’s been trying, but it’s still been enjoyable.
“It’s been hard with lads not available and the exodus to America.
“One of the hardest things has been getting all of our best players on the one pitch at the one time.”
A Brendan McLaughlin penalty for Malin denied Sean MacCumhaills a win in their opening game with the Twin Towns men having to settle for a draw at Connolly Park.
Brendan Dunleavy says he’s ‘down to the bare bones’ for the visit of Gaoth Dobhair, 14 times winners of the Dr Maguire.
Injury means that Nathan Gavigan and Eoghan Wright are doubtful, while Gary Dunnion is suspended due to his sending off against Malin. Rory Dunleavy and Gavin Gallagher are in America while Gerard Grindle is unavailable as he has a wedding to attend.
Ronan McMenamin and Darren Kelly are back from holidays to boost the numbers for a game Dunleavy admits that his side are up against it in.
“We’re hoping to stay in touch for a place in the quarter-finals,” said Dunleavy, whose side overcame Cloughaneely last Sunday 3-12 to 2-9 for a first win in nine League outings.
“Obviously, Gaoth Dobhair will be the hot favourites with the amount of county players they have and the fact that they’re a good Division 1 team.
“That said, we aren’t doubting our own ability. I have always talked about the ability of the players here in the Twin Towns. This is a game we’re aiming to win.”