Donegal manager Declan Bonner has promised players who can cut their teeth in the Dr McKenna Cup next month that they will be given a chance in the Allianz League.
Last night, Donegal were drawn in Section C of the McKenna Cup, a group also containing Fermanagh, meaning a reunion with former Donegal manager Rory Gallagher. Monaghan and Queen’s University complete the group.
It will be a new-look Donegal that will field in the competition, although the manager has confirmed that Odhrán Mac Niallais – who didn’t feature at all in 2017 – will make his return to the county colours.
Mac Niallais – pictured above by Geraldine Diver – spent some time in America and had been playing soccer with Gweedore Celtic. He lined out for his club, Gaoth Dobhair, in the Donegal SFC semi-final loss to Naomh Conaill.
Leo McLoone is back in the Donegal squad, but may have to delay his return until the end of January as he works on shaking off an old injury.
The likes of Nathan Mullins, Ciaran McGinley, Stephen McBrearty, Gary Merritt, Alan Lyons, Stephen McMenamin, Kevin McBrearty and Tony McClenaghan will be given their head in the pre-season competition.
“It is an ideal opportunity for these lads,” Bonner said.
“We want to be competitive, we’ll be working on systems of play too and the McKenna Cup will be important for us. We need to get a look at these lads in game action. The games are coming thick and fast. We’ll have three games in a week and we do want to hit the ground running.
“For some of them, this will be their first introduction to senior football. If they survive in the McKenna Cup, they will get League time.”
Darach O’Connor, who has been troubled by injury for the last couple of years, will help spearhead the Tir Chonaill attack for the McKenna Cup while Eamonn Doherty, Caolan Ward, Martin O’Reilly, Mark Anthony McGinley and Hugh McFadden are all tipped to feature.
McLoone and Martin McElhinney are undergoing rehabilitation work and will be targeting a return for the start of the League or potentially the knockout phase of the McKenna Cup.
While the intrigue of the McKenna Cup, a competition ordinarily given a shoulder shrug by many, the clash with Gallagher’s Fermanagh certainly heightens the interest.
But Bonner said: “All the games will give us a chance to work on ourselves before the League. We’re looking forward to getting up and going again. It’s a great chance for lads to impress and we’re looking forward to the games.”
Downings man Lorcan Connor is expected to feature for Queen’s in the competition which won’t include a lot of Donegal’s more experienced artists.Tags: