JIM MCGUINNESS was a spectator from the pressbox as his experimental All-Ireland champions limped out of the NI Power Dr McKenna Cup after being hammered by 17 points against Monaghan.
The Donegal manager and his assistant Rory Gallagher, as they had in their opening defeat against Fermanagh, let U-21 manager Maxi Curran take charge of the experimental line-up.
“We decided to focus on our own players after coming back from the team holiday in Dubai and let the U-21 and fringe players a chance,” McGuinness said. “It was tough going today, while we will continue to train towards the first game of the National League. We’re in better shape now than we were this time last year.”
Donegal’s willingness to dilute their line-up did take away somewhat from the Monaghan win, which was their second in the competition following their 1-13 to 2-6 victory over St Mary’s.
However, Malachy O’Rourke can be content with the start his side have made to the new campaign ahead of their final outing in Section C against his native Fermanagh on Wednesday.
Kieran Hughes and Conor McManus had fine games up front, while at the back it took 29 minutes for Donegal to get a flag waving. Adrian Hanlon’s goal did give the scoreboard a slightly distorted look considering Monaghan’s dominance. They led 0-7 to 1-1 at half-time.
Despite Donegal’s more fruitful finish to the first half it was Monaghan who opened the second half the stronger, with Keith McEnaney netting a goal. Monaghan were incessant and aside from a constant trail of points, substitute Dermot Malone, who impressed from the bench scoring 1-2, slammed a second past Peter Boyle before Darren Hughes slapped into an empty net late on.
“We have to take it in context considering Donegal had a lot of players missing,” said O’Rourke afterwards. “It’s very early in the year and it’s more about giving fellas game time.
“It means we have another competitive game on Wednesday and then if we win that then there’s another one. Competitive games are much better than any training and that’s what the boys think as well.”
DONEGAL: P Boyle; K McFadden, C Cannon, T McKinley; C Gallagher, S McGowan, Declan Walsh (0-1); C Ward, Wherity; S Griffin (0-2), G McFadden (0-1), D McLaughlin; J Carroll, A Hanlon (1-0), W Gillespie (0-1). Subs: M Cannon for McLaughlin (5); P Carr for McKinley (53); L Kelly for Gillespie (53); C Gibbons for Carroll (69); A O’Gara for Gallagher (69).
MONAGAN: M Keogh; R McNally, D Hughes, O Coyle (0-1); K Duffy, D Mone, C Galligan; O Lennon, D Hughes (1-0); K Hughes (0-6, 1f), P McArdle (0-2, 2f), T O’Neill; K McEneaney (1-1), C McManus (0-4, 3f), D Hahessy. Subs: D Malone (1-2) for McEneaney (39); D Clerkin for Lennon (48); S McQuillan for McArdle (49); G McArdle for Duffy (60); O Duffy for McManus (62).
REFEREE: C O’Hagan (Tyrone).