RORY GALLAGHER, the Donegal manager, has emphasised the importance of having experienced players from his squad to play alongside the rookies in the Dr McKenna Cup.
Gallagher handed out seven debuts in last Sunday’s 1-11 to 0-11 win over Down at Sean MacCumhaill Park, with six of them in from the start.
Further new faces are likely across the next two games – against St Mary’s College on Sunday and against Fermanagh on Wednesday night.
The Donegal boss has indicated that Red Hughs clubman Stephen McMenamin will get the nod on Sunday, while Cillian Morrison is likely to get more time having been kept to a late cameo against Down.
Gallagher has plenty of experience dotted around his team with the likes of Paddy McGrath, Martin O’Reilly, Leo McLoone and Frank McGlynn lining out last Sunday and captain Michael Murphy came off the bench.
Picture caption: Michael Murphy gets ready to come on as a substitute against Down on Sunday. Picture courtesy of Geraldine Diver.
While some have questioned the logic of playing a man of Murphy’s talents in January and suggested he should be kept until the stakes are a little higher, Gallagher isn’t one to buy into such theories.
“Michael is mad to play,” the Donegal manager said of Murphy.
“I don’t agree with that thing that he shouldn’t be playing. If you’re lucky, you’ll play somewhere between 14 and 19 intercounty games a season. We manage Michael’s workload – as we do with all of our players – and we’re happy with what we’re doing.
“Michael is comfortable and we’re comfortable.”
Gallagher will continue to experiment in the next week with his panel, but believes the presence of the stellar names to be vital in aiding the new players along.
“We seen before what the experience was like when we fielding only under-21s in the McKenna Cup – it wasn’t very successful in terms of overall player development,” Gallagher said.
“They need quality and they need experience around them.”
Tony McClenaghan, Jamie Brennan, Kieran Gillespie and Rory Carr have been denied a chance to make their debuts so far because of injuries, although Gillespie is said to be in with a shout of appearing against Fermanagh in Enniskillen on Wednesday.
On Sunday, Danny Rodgers. Jack O’Brien, Eoghan Ban Gallagher, Micheál Carroll, Ciaran Thompson and Stephen McBrearty all started for the first time.
“We’d be quite encouraged,” Gallagher said.
“We identified these young lads at an early stage and they’ve now done a lot of gym work and a lot of conditioning work. Since we’ve had them in, we could see that they would be good county players.
“Sunday was their first competitive game and they’ve had three challenge games as well. It’ll go up a notch from McKenna Cup to League and it’ll only be over a period of time that we’ll see how they go.”
One big talking point on Sunday was the performance of McGlynn, who scored 1-1 at centre-forward. Gallagher said: “We’re very pleased with Frank, but we know already what Frank McGlynn is about. He’s very flexible and has an awful lot of creativity, so we’ll give this some time.”