Darach ‘Jigger’ O’ Connor and Michael Boyle will be back for the Ulster Championship, Donegal manager Rory Gallagher confirmed this week, as Donegal got down to championship training.
Donegal play the winners of the preliminary round meeting of Fermanagh and Antrim on June 12th, in the Ulster quarter-final and the Donegal boss is confident of having both players back in plenty of time for the championship opener.
“The boys’ rehab is going really well and I expect to have them both back training with us by the middle of next month at the latest,” Gallagher told the Democrat.
“The Jigger is about four weeks away from a return, and in the case of Michael, he is probably looking at five weeks, but no longer than that. They should both be back by the middle of next month which will give them plenty of time for the start of the championship.”
They are both recovering from cruciate knee surgery before Christmas. Buncrana clubman O’Connor was drafted into the Donegal squad by Jim McGuinness at the end of 2013 as an 18-year-old and became an overnight sensation following a number of replacement appearances in Donegal’s championship run to the 2014 All-Ireland final. He started the 2014 All-Ireland final against Kerry and went agonisingly close to scoring an early goal against the Kingdom.
He was replaced by Christy Toye at half-time and his playing career has been dogged by injury since and was finally diagnosed with a cruciate injury last summer.
Michael Boyle, who was the number one choice goalkeeper for a number of seasons, had been understudy to Paul Durcan in more recent years.
He left the panel and emigrated to Boston ahead of last summer’s Ulster semi-final meeting with Derry. He played for Donegal Boston in the US but returned home again last Autumn and underwent surgery for a cruciate injury at the end of last year.
Meanwhile, Rory Carr, one of 12 new faces drafted into the Donegal squad for the new season, is expected to return to training in two weeks.
The St Eunan’s teenager suffered a dislocated shoulder playing for St Eunan’s in the Ulster Minor Club championship after Christmas and missed the Dr McKenna Cup and the entire Allianz League campaign.
Elsewhere on the injury front, Ciaran Thompson, another of Rory Gallagher’s new recruits, is due to have minor knee surgery this week, while Eoin McHugh and Martin O’Reilly, who picked up hamstring injuries over the last two weekends, are due back in training in a couple of weeks.
Donegal got down to championship training on Tuesday night and Rory Gallagher confirmed that Cillian Morrison is no longer part of the squad.
The manager has also confirmed that Michael Carroll did not travel to Dublin last weekend because he had given the player the weekend off to prepare for exams which were on this week.