Karl Lacey and Neil Gallagher are out of Donegal’s Ulster semi-final against Down at Kingspan Breffni Park this Sunday (throw-in 2pm).
Jim McGuinness confirmed this week the duo will miss out but expects both to be back next month.
Declan Walsh should continue to deputise for centre-back Lacey and Mark McHugh is most likely to replace Gallagher, with either Ryan Bradley or Michael Murphy dropping back alongside Rory Kavanagh at centre-field.
The other option would be to start with Martin McElhinney, whose introduction helped turn the 2-10 to 0-10 Ulster quarter-final win over Tyrone in Donegal’s favour.
Ross Wherity scored the second goal that afternoon and will be in with a chance of a first championship start.
There are no fresh concerns with McHugh, Anthony Thompson and Frank McGlynn all back training after hamstring concerns and David Walsh’s quad-muscle injury cleared up.
“Karl and Neil are ruled out,” McGuinness said this week. “Aside that, Mark and David came back in at the weekend and we had Frank and Anthony in on Tuesday.”
Footballer of the year Lacey is out having undergone keyhole surgery on a knee cartilage injury a fortnight ago.
The four-time All-Star, who missed the entire ill-fated Allianz League campaign following a hip operations, returned to play a telling role as substitute against Tyrone.
Lacey’s absence will mean a run of 41 consecutive championship outings - a series of appearances that started with the 2004 Ulster semi-final against Tyrone - comes to an end.
Gallagher, an All-Star midfielder, had been struggling with a groin injury but played through the pain barrier against Tyrone.
However, the 30-year-old injured knee ligaments whilst playing for Glenswilly against Bundoran in the Raidió na Gaeltachta SFC the weekend before last.
“They’re two very important players,” McGuinness said. “But we’ve had key players out at key times over the last couple of years.
“We’ve been trying to create a situation where the squad can take the odd hit.
“Whoever gets the nod on Sunday will hopefully take their chance. I don’t expect their absences will be long-term.
“They should be available for the Ulster final, if we get through. We’ll see how it goes if we end up in the qualifiers.”
One thing that would’ve satisfied McGuinness was the performance of the panel against Tyrone.
Declan and David Walsh, McElhinney, Wherity and Martin O’Reilly all had positive influences and Ryan McHugh could get a taste of championship football for the first time on Sunday in Cavan. Dermot Molloy is said to be training very well.
“That was a big plus for us,” McGuinness added of how well his panellists showed.
“Apart from the lads that are ruled out the panel is fit and healthy and things have been going good.
“Tyrone was about getting traction and getting that first victory under your belt. We’ve worked hard since then over the last couple of weeks.
“We long for the summer and it’s good to have the lads home and in their own beds at night. It’s important for us and we’re in a healthy state.”
Sunday’s opponents Down defeated Brian McIver’s Derry 2-17 to 1-15 in their Ulster opener at Celtic Park earlier this month.
Last July, James McCartan’s team ran Donegal close for a while in the Ulster final before losing 2-18 to 0-13.
“Maybe I am clinging on to positives but I felt for 55 minutes we opened them up as well as anyone in the country did but we didn’t lock the door at the back,” McCartan said “There is the conundrum.”