Donegal are back in action on Sunday and heading for Kingspan Breffni Park hoping to get their Dr McKenna Cup ambitions back on track when they face Cavan. (Throw in 2pm).
But with Cavan also Donegal’s preliminary round opponents in the Ulster Senior Championship it will be interesting to see how respective managers Jim McGuinness (Donegal) and Val Andrews (Cavan) approach the game.
The indications from both after last weekend’s opening round of games is that they will continue with plans to experiment with the view to getting settled sides for the start of next month’s National League, which is only three weeks away from this Sunday.
And certainly if they were hoping to lay down psychological markers in their clash in Sunday’s clash they were both keeping it very much to themselves with both insisting that it was all about trying out players and shaking off the cobwebs in preparation for challenges further down the road.
“Our main aim is Cavan in the Ulster championship in May and trying to win that game. We’ll be trying to look at everyone within the squad and give them a chance in the next couple of weeks and months and we’ll make our decisions on that,” said McGuinness in the immediate aftermath of last weekend’s two point defeat to UUJ in O’Donnell Park.
“We’ll continue to experiment and give fellas a chance on Sunday. It is more about training and getting fellas back in shape over the next couple of weeks. We gave a number of lads a run out against U.U.J. and we hope to give another few a run out against Cavan,” said the Donegal manager.
McGuinness used 19 players against UUJ with Conor McManus and Gary McFadden getting first starts while reserve keeper Peter Boyle, Conor Classon and recalled Peter Witherow and Daniel McLaughlin also saw action. Both Boyle and Witherow started while Classon was introduced in the second half.
The Donegal boss also used a challenge game with Roscommon on Friday to give newcomers Johnny Bonner and Christopher Murrin a run out. In that game too he used College players Michael Boyle, Eoin Waide, Leo McLoone, Martin McElhinney and Michael Murphy, all of whom are unavailable for the Dr. McKenna Cup.
Recalled Adrian Hanlon missed last weekend’s game with a bug but is also awaiting the result on a scan on a knee injury picked up last summer while Karl Lacey, Rory Kavanagh and Colm McFadden, who are also on the 26 man panel named from the McKenna Cup, have yet to see action.
All-Star Lacey, who was unavailable last weekend, is awaiting to have minor knee surgery in the coming weeks while Kavanagh is only on his way back from ankle surgery he had at the end of last season.
Cavan kicked 14 wides and only lost by a point to Derry in their opening game in Celtic Park, with 14 man Derry coming with a late surge to win by a single point, 0-13 to 0-12 and by all accounts lucky to do so.
Cavan manager Val Andrews, who created something of a stir when he dropped star forward Seanie Johnston from the squad, has opted for youth and has drawn in a number of players from last season’s Ulster winning U-21 and minor teams.
They were pretty strong around midfield where Gearoid McKiernan and David Givney gave them sway for long spells while up front Niall McDermott and Raymond Galligan carried the main scoring threat.
While both managers will be looking to fry bigger fish in the coming weeks and will play down the importance of Sunday’s game, there will be a psychological dimension to the outcome. A victory for Jim McGuinness and his men would mostly definitely lay down a marker for their May 20th championship showdown.
Meanwhile, the destinations of this year’s four Donegal home fixtures in the National Football League Division One have been confirmed. O’Donnell Park in Letterkenny will play host to Laois on Sunday, February 12, while Mato will visit Fr Tierney Park in Ballyshannon on Sunday, March 18. Donegal welcome Cork, on Sunday, March 4, and Armagh, on Sunday, April 8, to MacCumhaill Park in Ballybofey.