Queens manager Anthony McGrath will be treading familiar ground

Queens manager Anthony McGrath will be treading familiar ground
Former Donegal underage footballer, Anthony McGrath, returns to Sean MacCumhaill Park’s hallowed sod on Wednesday night.

Former Donegal underage footballer, Anthony McGrath, returns to Sean MacCumhaill Park’s hallowed sod on Wednesday night.

Anthony, from Ballyshannon, is the manager of the Queen’s University team that will face Donegal in the final game in Section A of the Dr McKenna Cup.

Anthony is the proud holder of Ulster Championship medals at minor and U-21 and three senior championships with Aodh Ruadh. Those Ulster medals were won in 1991 (minor) and 1995 U-21) under the management of Sean Ward and Donal Reid respectively.The Donegal championships were captured in 1994, 1997 and 1998.

“It’s been a while since I have been on MacCumhaill Park. I have been at Donegal games down the years and was there for the Tyrone championship game last May. But I’m not sure when I was last on the pitch. It could be as far back as the 1998 county final against Naomh Columba,” said Anthony, who, in his day job, is marketing manager at Queens.

“I am looking forward to it and meeting up with Damien Diver and John Duffy again. I played with both of them. Damien and myself played county minor and U-21 together and John and myself played together with Aodh Ruadh for a good few years.”

However, with a combination of examinations, injuries and players opting to play with the counties instead of the Colleges, means that Anthony and his coach former Armagh All-Ireland winner Aidan O’Rourke are struggling for numbers for the McKenna Cup.

“With injuries and county commitments and exams starting this week we are down to the bare bones and as I speak to you this afternoon (Friday) I have 11 players for the Donegal game. But we will pick up a few between now and the game and will have a team for Wednesday night.

“But overall we are very disappointed with the competition and the way it is run and having to play without a number of our county players. We opted out of the competition last year over the county player issue and only agreed to enter this year after Joe Kernan was appointed to sort out the problem. But that doesn’t seem to have worked and we really have to question what is the point of competing in the competition.”

Queens captain is Donegal man, Martin McElhinney, a member of Donegal 2012 All-Ireland winning team.

“I could be accused of having a Donegal bias when selecting the captain. But Martin is a good lad and has had a number of big performances in the Ryan Cup and brings a wealth of experience to the team from his involvement with Donegal over the last few years. And he is one the players we look to lead the side from the front on the field and we will again on Wednesday night.”

After Wednesday night Anthony McGrath and Queens will turn their attention to the Sigerson Cup - the blue riband competition of third level football - and an end of the month preliminary round meeting with the University of Limerick.

With Queens hosting the Sigerson finals weeend this year, there will be a big emphasis on making it through to the weekend.