DONEGAL are likely to start without three key forwards as they open this season’s Allianz National Football League Division One against Down at Pairc Esler on Saturday night.
Mark McHugh will miss three outings this week with an abductor muscle injury - one each for his college, county and club.
As well as the game in Newry, he will not play for IT Sligo in their Sigerson Cup opener against IT Tralee tomorrow (Wednesday) in Ennis and Kilcar’s Ulster U-21 quarter-final against the Derry champions, St Canice’s from Dungiven, on Sunday in Belfast.
The 21-year-old will, though, be available for selection by the time Laois roll into Letterkenny for the second game of the NFL on Sunday, February 12.
Murphy underwent surgery on a groin injury a fortnight ago and all is said to have went well but the Glenswilly forward is still the best part of a month off full fitness, while McFadden, who was initially thought to be a forced absentee for a similar timeframe, is progressing well.
The St Michael’s forward has not played this year due to a back complaint but has been able to undertake some light training and may be a substitute, with Stephen Griffin of St Naul’s and Naomh Conaill’s Dermot Molloy in line to spearhead the attack.
Martin McElhinney’s predicament has been well documented of late, with the St Michael’s centre-fielder being the centre of a tug-of-war between McGuinness and DCU manager, Niall Moyna. McElhinney was injured in the warm-up before Donegal’s challenge against Monaghan in Clones last Saturday week and was subsequently unable to play for his college in the Bord na Mona O’Byrne Cup that evening against Meath.
Sunday’s O’Byrne Cup final between Kildare and DCU was postponed following a downpour which rendered the pitch at St Conleth’s Park in Newbridge unplayable. No date has been set for the rescheduling but with Kildare ruling out last night (Monday) as a possibility it could take some time.
DCU’s Sigerson Cup opener against Cork IT will now be played at the DCU Sports Grounds this day week. McElhinney has recovered from the ankle ligamant injury he sustained against Monaghan and will train with Donegal this week, which means he should play against Down.
Last week, The Irish Examiner suggested McElhinney’s father Liam was upset with his son’s treatment. The story read: “[Martin] McElhinney, according to [Niall] Moyna, was in tears about the ordeal while the player’s father is understood to have been talked out of going public about the matter.”
However, Liam McElhinney has rubbished the suggestions. “I was never contacted and I was never going to go to the press,” the current St Michael’s chairman and former county board youth officer said. “I know the rough and tumble of football so nobody had to talk me out of anything.
“Martin was upset but he was never in tears and to be fair to both Donegal and DCU they have greatly helped with his recovery and hopefully he will be fit enough to play in Newry and in the Sigerson Cup next week.”