The return of forwards Conor Doherty and Caolan McDaid can provide Declan Bonner with some positive selection headaches ahead of Donegal’s Ulster MFC premliminary round tie with Tyrone at MacCumhaill Park on Sunday, throw-in 2pm.
Bonner’s panel are putting their final touches on their preparations having been based in Ballyshannon’s Breesy Centre over the weekend for a training get-together ahead of the first step in their defence of the Ulster MFC.
When Donegal overcame Derry 2-14 to 1-11 last month to reclaim the Ulster Minor League, they did so without Kilcar’s Doherty (knee), McDaid from Termon (ankle ligaments) and Naoise O’Baoill of Gaoth Dobhair (groin).
However, on Thursday night at Killygordon, Bonner had a full panel at training for the first time all year.
“Tonight is the first night Conor Doherty has come through and I’m very surprised that Caolan McDaid has,” Bonner said afterwards.
“Coalan had a really bad ankle ligament tear and it’s great work the medics have done in the last two weeks. He took a full part in tonight’s session and was going about 80 per cent. He’s probably going to be an option now.
“He did most of the session so it’s looking positive that everyone is available. Naoise’s groin injury is OK so it’s a full strength squad. That’s the first time this year.
“There’s two lads away at college - Dylan Kennedy is in Limerick and he’s not going to be involved as he has exams right up until May 17 and Sean McHugh is in Galway but will be back for the weekend.”
Jason McGee joined the set-up last month and at 6’6’’ tall offers something different.
The Cloughaneely centre-fielder or forward captained PCC Falcarrah to the Arthurs Cup against St Mark’s From Warrenpoint last year at Healy Park in Omagh.
“Jason has been in there for the last few weeks, maybe a month,” Bonner added. “We’ve had a look at him in a few in-house matches. He’s a good lad and a good addition to the squad. We had always planned to freshen things up anyway.
“There’s no point in taking people into squad and they’re happy just to be in the squad. We need boys to freshen things up. Danny Gallagher (of Naomh Ultan) came in six weeks ago, so that’s where it’s at. We’ve 31 in there now. They’re all real live options.”
Last year, Bonner took Donegal to the Ulster Minor League, Ulster Minor Football Championship and then onto the All-Ireland final, where they lost 0-17 to 1-10.
Only six players remain - Captain Michael Carroll and his clubmate Gary McFadden from Gaoth Dobhair; Naomh Conaill’s Ethan O’Donnell, Danny Rodgers from Dungloe, Stephen McMenamin of Red Hugh’s and Kilcar’s Doherty.
“It was very disappointing to lose an All-Ireland final last year but listen, you have to move on,” Bonner added. “We had our chances on the day and Kerry were clinical. They kicked some great scores. We knew we had to take the chances that came out way on the day. And we didn’t do that so we ended up losing the match and that’s how it went.
“It’s a new squad compared to last year. We’ve six left. They’ve gelled in well with the lads from the U-17s and U-16s. We’ve taken in a couple from out of the blue. There’s a real team spirit there.
“You basically go back to the same things that you were trying to teach last year. Every other aspect is the same - the demands and that from an early stage - on the field, off the field and how they carry themselves. They’re very disciplined and committed.”