Donegal are going to have to unearth a few new players to freshen up the squad in their forthcoming Allianz Football League campaign.
That is the view of former Donegal All-Star forward Joyce McMullin. Joyce, a member of the 1992 All-Ireland winning half-forward line and an All- Star from 1990, feels Jim McGuinness is going to have find a few new players to strengthen his panel and increase his options in the course of the next two months in the Allianz League.
“It’s not that I think any of the regular lads and the boys we have to see as the first choice 15 or 16 players in recent years are not still up to it,” said Joyce.
“It’s just after watching Dublin last year, especially in their All-Ireland semi-final clash with Kerry. If you recall that game, Kerry were on top and playing the better football and looked like they were going to go and win the game. Then all of a sudden Jim Gavin threw on a few subs and the game turned and as we know Dublin went on to win the game and the All-Ireland.
“That game, if ever there was a game, proved that modern Gaelic football is a 20 man game, and really if you don’t have a strong bench and options you have no chance in the championship. You may get away with it in the league all right but not in the championship.
“Ryan McHugh, Odhran McNiallais, young Darach ‘Jigger’ O’Connor are the players I would like to see getting games in the league. I think they are good enough but they need games for the experience. It is no good just throwing them on as subs now and again. They need games to gain experience of playing at the level and not just one game but a number of games.
“Any player can have a bad day or suffer a knock. They need a few games to bed them into the team and the set-up.
“I know I’m being a little selfish here, but I would also like to see my own club man Luke Keaney get a few games to see if he is up to it. I think he is but we will never know for sure until he is tested in the white heat of battle. He is long enough around now the fringes of the squad and the time has come to give him his chance and to see if he is up to senior county standard.
“There are a number of other lads, too, that have been around the squad for a few years now and we never really have seen them and we don’t know if they are good enough or not.
“I think all these lads need to get game time too. Now I accept Jim can’t make wholesale changes and it is a competitive league where points are precious.
“The ideal situation I suppose to experiment on a larger scale would be if you were five or six points up in a game at half-time and well in control, not that I suspect that is going to happen in too many games in this year’s league.
“But the reality is if we are going to be serious championship contenders and going to challenge the likes the Dubs we are going to have to blood a number of new players and hope they are up to it.
“A player to be ready for championship football needs to have a league campaign if not at least a few games in the league behind him. That is the way it was when I was playing and while the game might have moved on a lot in recent years, I still think it holds true.
“There is no getting away from it we need them to freshen up the squad. We need boys coming in and putting pressure on the established players and create a bit of good healthy competition for places. We also need players to be able to come on and replace someone that picks up an injury or replace a player who receives a black card. Dublin proved it last year.”
As for the League itself, Joyce sees no handy points and feels the fact that Donegal have only three home games makes promotion that more of a daunting task.
However, he does feel if the dice falls anyway kindly at all he expects Donegal to be in the promotion mix come April.
“The first two games are big games and could very well be the two defining games in our season, certainly in the league.
“Looking at the League overall realistically we are going to have to win our three home games and pick up at least one if not two wins away from home.
“I know we are more than capable of going to Newry and Armagh and winning but I still think next Sunday’s game against Laois and the following weekend’s game against Galway present us with our best chance of four points.
“But they are also the type of games we could as easily lose. I certainly would be hoping to pick up the four but at least two from the next two weekends. And no better place to start than the first day in Portlaoise.”