An eleven point defeat to Derry wasn’t the result we were expecting from our opening game of the new season.
Unfortunately, I didn’t make it to Owenbeg. I had a prior commitment and I just couldn’t get out of it. But by all accounts Derry were much the better side.
In fairness though Brian McIver fielded a much stronger and more experienced starting fifteen to Rory Gallagher. From what I gather most of the Derry line-up featured at some stage last year and a number of them played against Donegal in the championship in Celtic Park last summer.
Martin McElhinney was our only player who featured in last September’s All-Ireland final while four of the starting team, Eamonn Ward, Conor Parke, Ciaran McGinley, Eunan Doherty all made their first starts.
The three subs used Joe Gibbons, Ryan Malley and Malachy McDermott also had their first outings.
When you take all that into account, it does give the result some perspective.
Despite the margin of the defeat and the way we seemed to fold the tent in the second half, by all accounts a number of the new boys acquitted themselves reasonably well. Conor Parke and Ciaran McGinley were two of the new boys that were mentioned to me as having played well.
I also hear that Michael Boyle made a number of fine saves and only for the Termon man the margin of the defeat could have been greater. I did hear that his kick-outs were not up to scratch.
But I’m delighted Michael is getting his chance. I have always rated him as a ‘keeper.
Others I hear that showed up were Cory Gallagher - while he was on - Eoin McHugh and Martin O’Reilly.
I must say I have to applaud Rory for giving these lads a chance and I have no doubt he will pick the best from yesterday’s game for next Sunday against Queen’s.
Hopefully, we can get back to winning ways against the Students and also beat Fermanagh in the last game.
It was also good to see Mark McHugh back in the fold. Mark is a good footballer and we need all of the best footballers in the county playing for the county.
We may not have got the result we were expecting but I still think Rory is going down the right road by giving the new players a chance.
Next to the men already in the squad, these are the players that stood out for their clubs all through the season. And it is only right and proper that they get their chance and the management team see what they are made of.
The step up from club to county is a big one and realistically, some of them won’t make it. Hopefully, two or three will and I’m sure that is all that the management team are hoping for.
If at the end of the McKenna Cup we have two or three players to step into the squad it will have been a useful exercise and a good campaign.
I was delighted to hear at the weekend that none of the outgoing squad were retiring. There may be a slight doubt about Rory Kavanagh, but Rory is going to talk to him in the next week or so.
There are also question marks over Anthony Thompson’s future as well. Anthony is currently working in Liverpool and that may be a problem. But listening to Rory, he hasn’t ruled out having the Naomh Conaill man. I also think it is a good idea to rest as many as possible of the senior boys in the McKenna Cup. They have a lot of football played over the last four seasons. The break will do them good and they will come back fresher for the league.
Brian McEniff was in conversation with Tom Comack.