Donegal’s Dr. McKenna Cup campaign came to an end on Sunday with victory over Fermanagh in Fr. Tierney Park, Ballyshannon.
The lure of the McKenna Cup has not been strong for Donegal in recent years; the attitude seems to be that there are bigger fish to fry later in the year.
Under new manager Rory Gallagher, two wins in three games represents a satisfactory opening couple of weeks.
Conditions for football have been poor, especially in the last week with difficult surfaces in Ballybofey and Ballyshannon, but in spite of that there have been positives.
Michael Boyle had two very good outings in goals while Kilcar pair Eoin McHugh and Ciaran McGinley have impressed. McHugh was particularly impressive on Sunday against Fermanagh in conditions that did not suit his style.
Daniel McLaughlin is another that has come to the fore, being out of the picture for some time, while Martin O’Reilly has put his hand up once more for a starting place.
The newcomers to the Donegal panel had another run-out on Monday night against Sligo IT under the lights in Sligo and I’m told that McLaughlin again impressed, as did Conor Parke and Eamonn Doherty. Parke had just one outing in the McKenna Cup due to his involvement with St. Eunan’s U-21s and he is certainly one to watch.
The new manager has chosen to bring in the older players on a gradual basis, but when he sits down to select his team to face Derry in the opening game of the Allianz National Football League next week ahead of the January 31st clash, there is likely to be more familiar than unfamiliar faces.
Whether he selects Michael Boyle or Paul Durcan will not be the big talking point. You can rest assured that Eamon McGee, Frank McGlynn and Paddy McGrath will be in defence and Neil McGee and Karl Lacey, if ready, will also be there. Declan Walsh and Eamonn Doherty will hope to be in the mix
Christy Toye, Martin McElhinney and Neil Gallagher will fight for two midfield positions with the other posted in the half-forward line
Michael Murphy will be on the edge of the square while Patrick McBrearty, Odhran MacNiallais and Ryan McHugh will be in the staring line up.
Mark McHugh will be in line for a shirt but it remains to be seen where he will be slotted in. His best work remains in a free role but that will require high fitness levels and the hunger attached. His greatest asset is that ability to get up and down the pitch and link defence and attack.
That doesn’t leave that many places to fill. Will Colm McFadden be eased back in from the substitutes’ bench.
Hopefully, the newcomers will be given game time, whether as starters or as substitutes because it is only against the big guns that they can be truly measured.
It all points ahead to another exciting year with hopefully a good start against Derry in the league on Saturday week.