Kieran Gillespie, who is out of U-21 game against Tyrone
Donegal have been hit with a hammer blow ahead of next Wednesday night’s Ulster U-21 quarter final clash with Tyrone, on Healy Park, Omagh, with the loss of five players, among them senior player Jason McGee.
McGee is ruled out of the crunch tie with a shoulder injury suffered in Donegal’s Allianz League win (1-16 to 0-11) over Cavan, in Kingspan Breffni Park on Saturday night.
Donegal U-21 manager, Declan Bonner, confirmed this yesterday: “Jason is definitely out and has no chance of playing in the game,” said the Donegal boss.
“It is definitely a blow. He has established himself in the senior team and has played in all four games so far in the league.”
The bad news does not end with McGee. Declan Bonner is also planning this week without Gaoth Dobhair pair Kieran Gillespie and Cian Mulligan; Na Rossa’s Christian Bonner and Kilcar’s Conor Doherty.
They are all on the treatment table and have also been ruled out of the reckoning by the Donegal boss.
Gillespie, Bonner and Doherty all played in last year’s semi-final meeting with the O’Neill County in Celtic Park.
Tyrone won that game on a 1-15 to 2-8 scoreline.
“Kieran is struggling to shake off a hamstring injury and it is a similar story with Cian. He is out with a quad injury. Christian injured his back a couple of weeks ago and Conor tore a hamstring.
“They are all experienced players but we have a squad and I suppose the one positive to come out of the McKenna Cup is that we got to look at a good few players.
“And a number of the lads that we will be calling on now got game time in the McKenna Cup.”
With up to seven of the squad in Rory Gallagher’s senior panel and a large number at college outside the county the Donegal boss insists preparations have been difficult
“Preparations haven’t been ideal with so many of the lads involved with the seniors and with so many of the lads at college outside the county.
“In all, 14 of the lads are outside the county scattered between Dublin, Galway, Athlone and Dundalk, all more than three hours away from the county.
“This meant it was impossible to get them together during the week so most of the work we have done has been at weekends.”
Donegal have played two challenge games in recent weeks against Dublin and Roscommon. They won both games.
“The Dublin game was a good workout and we won the Roscommon game well.
“I know we are missing the lads but we have still a good squad of players. It is basically made up the last two minor teams.
“We still have Danny Rodgers, Eoghan Bán Gallagher, Stephen McMenamin, Michael Carroll, Jamie Brennan, Stephen McBrearty, Caolan McGonagle and Tony McCleneghan, all very experienced players.”
All of the members of the senior squad have been released by Rory Gallagher this week.
St Eunan’s Rory Carr has returned to training after receiving the all clear from the medics on a shoulder injury that has sidelined him for the best part of the last two years.
However, the manager explained it will be a few weeks before he is back up to match pace.
Bonner is taking his squad to Downings for a two-day training camp on Saturday and Sunday to put the final touches to preparation.
“Tyrone are going to be a massive challenge and we are all fully aware of that, especially at home in Healy Park.
“But the lads are really looking forward to and relishing the challenge and they know it is going to take a mammoth effort.”
Donegal have lost the last two meetings between the counties; last year’s semi-final and the final the year before, both in Celtic Park.