Doengal manager Declan Bonner
Declan Bonner will be blooding the newcomers in his panel when Donegal are back in competitive action in the Dr. McKenna Cup in January.
With the draw being made for the competition last week, Bonner knows that he has games against Monaghan, Fermanagh and Queen’s to look forward to.
The Donegal squad were back in full training on Saturday for the first time and there are just four weeks preparation before his first competitive game.
The full fixture list will be revealed tomorrow night by the Ulster Council with Donegal guaranteed home games against Queen’s and either Monaghan or Fermanagh.
The Donegal manager said that the shorter trip to Fermanagh for the away game would be more ideal, but that was only a minor issue.
The draw will see former Donegal manager, Rory Gallagher, pitting his wits against Bonner as he is now manager of Fermanagh, and that should add to the interest. But Donegal’s new boss says it didn’t really matter who they got in the draw.
“We were back in training at weekend and getting work done. The season will come very quick and it will be very busy, with the Dr McKenna Cup running into what will be a very competitive National League.
“It didn’t really matter who we got in the Dr McKenna Cup draw. We will be using the competition to blood the new panel members and it will be an opportunity for players to put their hand up.
“I’m sure Rory (Gallagher) will be doing the same with Fermanagh,” said Bonner, who added that he was looking forward to getting back into the action.
“We want to be competitive and we want to be winning matches. It would be nice to qualify from the group which would give us an extra match at least,” he said.
Indeed, Bonner missed out on a trip to London with the Donegal 1992 panel because the weekend coincided with their first weekend back training.
The Donegal boss will be without a number of injured players for the Dr. McKenna Cup including All-Ireland winner, Leo McLoone. Also on the injured list are Gaoth Dobhair’s Kieran Gillespie and Jason McGee of Cloughaneely. He is hopeful of having them available for the start of the National League.
The players that are likely to see game time in the Dr. McKenna Cup include the likes of Alan Lyons of Naomh Ultan; Kevin McBrearty of Four Masters; Ciaran McGinley of Kilcar; Nathan Mullins of St. Vincent’s and Gary Merritt of Milford.
The manager will also be calling on senior panelists Martin O’Reilly, Hugh McFadden, Eamonn Doherty and Mark Anthony McGinley.
Donegal have to submit a 26-man panel to the Ulster Council for the competition and Bonner said he would be sitting down with his backroom team to complete that task early this week.
Only one player - Eoin McHugh- is college tied. The Kilcar forward will be part of the Jordanstown panel for the competition.
Meanwhile, the manager said that no decision had been made on the captaincy of the county team for 2018 just yet.
“We will have a captain in place for the Dr. McKenna Cup, but there no great hurry on making a decision long term. What I want is 15 players to take a lead role on the field and another 10-15 wanting to be leaders for Donegal. Every man needs to step up,” said Bonner.
DR. MCKENNA CUP DRAW
Donegal have been paired with Fermanagh and Monaghan in the Dr. McKenna Cup after the draw on Thursday night.
Donegal will have two home games - against Queen's and either Fermanagh or Monaghan. The fixtures will not be made until next week.
The full draw is: Section A - St. Mary's, Tyrone, Cavan, Antrim.
Section B: Ulster University, Derry, Down, Armagh
Section C: Queen's, Donegal, Monaghan, Fermanagh.
The games will be played on Wednesday 3rd January; Sunday, 6th January and Wednesday 10th January, with the semi-finals on weekend of 13th January.