All-Ireland champions Donegal are back from holidays and back in action this week when they face Fermanagh on Wednesday night in Brewster Park in a first round game in the Dr McKenna Cup. (Throw 7.30 pm)
The game is Donegal’s first competitive outing since last September’s All- Ireland final triumph over Mayo. However, it is expected to be something of an experimental Donegal, with many of the stars of the All-Ireland success absent through injury or being rested by manager Jim McGuinness and Rory Gallagher.
Paul Durcan, Michael Boyle, Marty Boyle, Gary McFadden, Stephen Griffin, Dermot ‘Brick’ Molloy, Adrian Hanlon, Daniel McLaughlin and Thomas McKinley are the only members of the All-Ireland squad named in a 20-man panel forwarded by Donegal to the Ulster Council.
And while McGuinness has still to add six names to the initial panel, it is thought he is going to stick to the young and untried with the panel made up mainly of this season’s U-21 panel. The U-21s face Tyrone in March in the Ulster championship.
U-21s Peter Boyle, Kevin McFadden, Ciaran Cannon, Coalan Ward, Odhran MacNiallais, Shaun McGarvey, Willie Gillespie, Pauric Carr, Leon Kelly and Luke Keaney are already in the manager’s plans.
Packie Mailey, Convoy; Ross Wherity, St Eunan’s; Shane McGowan, Bundoran, and Johnny Gallagher, Aodh Ruadh, who have been drafted into a development squad by McGuinness, are also expected to be given a run out in the McKennam Cup.
For Wherity, McGowan and Gallagher, it is an opportunity to resurrect their county careers. They, along with Mark McGowan, St Eunan’s – who is named in the initial 20-man panel - have all featured for the county before and have received recalls on the back of impressive club form.
Tomorrow night’s game is the start of a hectic eight days as they play Monaghan in Ballybofey on Sunday and wrap up their opening series of games in the secondary Ulster competition the following Wednesday night, also in Ballybofey, at home to St Mary’s.
Meanwhile, the Donegal panel touched down in Dublin airport this afternoon after their New Year break in Dubai.