Donegal are without Kevin Cassidy and Rory Kavanagh for Saturday night’s crunch Allianz National Football League Division Two clash with Tyrone in Healy Park. (Throw in 7.30 pm)
Defender come midfielder Cassidy is away on holidays while St. Eunan’s man Kavanagh, who has been Jim McGuinness’s first choice midfielder this season so far, is ruled out with injury.
“Kevin is away on a family holiday booked way back before he returned to the squad and Rory is struggling with a groin injury picked up in training the week before the Sligo game and has been struggling with it ever since,” McGuinness told the Democrat.
“The lads are a huge loss but we are just going to have to get on with it and give it our best shot. It is is a good challenge for our players and one they are relishing. “We had two good sessions over the weekend on Saturday and Sunday and we had another good session last night (Tuesday) and the lads are in good shape and are fresh.
“We decided after the Sligo game to give the boys the week off because we felt that they looked tired and a little lethargic in that game. They had been putting in a huge effort and had been working hard both on their own and collectively and we felt the best thing for them was a few days off training.
“And it seems to have worked as they came back very fresh at the weekend and trained well and we had a good session again last night (Tuesday) and we will train again on Thursday night.”
Donegal climbed Mount Errigal on Sunday after training as part of the Rise to the Challenge Charity fund-raiser.
McGuinness will also be sweating that his players including Michael Murphy, Martin McElhiney, Mark McHugh, Anthony Thompson and Stephen Griffin, are in Sigerson action this week.
In the clearest indication to date that while the league points and the league are important his main focus is on the championship McGuinness said: “It is all about putting in the work now and getting everybody fit and well and getting a look at the players as they return to fitness and building team for May 15th and the championship meeting with Antrim.
“After all that is what it is all about and hopefully we can pick up enough points along the way to survive in the division. If we can pick up enough early points we could maybe then think of pushing for promotion but May 15th is still the big date.”
The manager’s options have been boosted by the return to fitness of David Walsh while the manager also reported that Michael Hegarty is fit again and will be on the bench for the first time since he returned to the squad. The Kilcar man is expected to be used at some stage on Saturday night.
In the absence of Cassidy, Four Masters’ Barry Dunnion, who made a significant contribution when introduced against Sligo, is the front runner to replace the Gaoth Dobhair man at half-back, with Frank McGlynn another option.
The midfield vacany left by Kavanagh is less clear cut. Conor Classon, who has had a number outings in the middle of the park in the Dr. McKenna Cup and also came off the bench against Sligo, has been the third choice midfielder and is one option. Another is to move Leo McLoone from centre-half back while fully fit again Martin McElhinney may also be considered for one of the midfield berths.
If McElhinney does not make it at midfield he may get the nod ahead of his club colleague Daniel McLaughlin and David Walsh for one of the two half-forward positions.
Other than the enforced changes the starting 15 is expected to be very much along the lines of that which started against Sligo.
The Donegal team will be selected after training on Thursday night. Tyrone, who lost their opening game to Derry, expect to have Owen Mulligan among the subs as they bid two crucial home points.