Donegal manager Jim McGuinness has strengthened his squad as Donegal prepare for Sunday’s crunch Allianz National League Division Two clash in Fr. Tierney Park, Ballyshannon. (Throw in 2.30 pm).
Former goalkeeper Michael Boyle, along with St. Eunan’s Kevin Rafferty, and Naomh Conaill pair Dara Gallagher and Eoin Waide have all been recalled by McGuinness.
St. Eunan’s Mark McGowan was also invited to join the squad but the UCD student is committed to going to the U.S. for the summer and was not available.
“After the U-21 campaign we felt we needed to strengthen the squad and we are delighted to have the boys back. They are all good footballers and they will add to the squad and greatly improve our options as we prepare for the latter stages of the league and the championship. We would have liked to have Mark McGowan, too, but unfortunately he had already commitments in the States,” McGuinness told the Democrat.
The Donegal boss also revealed that Johnny Bonner, through injury, has been forced to leave the squad while Bonner’s club colleague Leo McLoone is on the long term injured list and is unlikely to feature until later in the summer at best.
Boyle is an experienced keeper and was the number one choice for a number of seasons before losing out to Paul Durcan in recent years. He was a member of the squad until last Spring when he opted out after Donegal’s heavy defeat to Armagh in the league.
St. Eunan’s midfielder Kevin Rafferty (29) has been in the panel a number of times over the last decade since first drafted into the squad in 2001 by Mickey Moran. He subsequently played under Brian McEniff, Brian McIvor and John Joe Doherty. His last outing was at centre-half back against Derry in the Dr. Kenna Cup in Januray of 2009.
Dara Gallagher and Eoin Waide have both played underage for the county and have been members of the squad in recent years with Waide a first choice wing back for much of last season.
Meanwhile, McGuinness and his players’ focus this week is on Antrim on Sunday and their second last game in Division Two the league.
Donegal are unbeaten and sitting pretty on top of the Division Two table, but despite this need at least one more win if they are to secure a place in the Division Two League final and more importantly promotion back up to the top division.
“It is very tight at the top of the table and while a lot could be decided this weekend we may find that we are still going to Laois the following weekend looking for a result to clinch promotion.
“The focus this week is on Antrim and nothing else and maintaining the form we have produced in recent games and going out and winning the game. The form and morale is good in the squad and training is going well. It is a big game for us as indeed it is for Antrim.”
With Neil McGee, who limped out of the Derry game with a knee injury, coming through Gaoth Dobhair’s game last weekend, corner back Paddy McGrath is Donegal’s only injury concern.
McGrath suffered an ankle injury at training last Friday night, but the manager is not ruling the Ardara man out of taking his place at corner back.
“Paddy is responding well to treatment and we will not make a final call on his fitness until Thursday night at training. At this stage I would be pretty hopeful that he will be fine.”
If McGrath proves his fitness the team is not expected to differ greatly from the side that started against Derry last time out.
Antrim, who are facing relegation with just one win from their five games to date, are without Kevin McGourty (suspended) are also sweating on the fitness of Paddy Cunningham and Kevin O’Boyle.