Donegal consider pulling out of Dr McKenna Cup after McElhinney row

Tom Comack


Tom Comack

Donegal may have no choice but to withdraw from the Dr. McKenna Cup next year if they do not have first call on their players at third level Colleges.

Donegal may have no choice but to withdraw from the Dr. McKenna Cup next year if they do not have first call on their players at third level Colleges.

This is the view expressed this week by Donegal manager Jim McGuinness after a very public row between the Donegal boss and Dublin City University manager Niall Moyna, over Martin McElhinney, and Moyna’s claim that McGuinness ‘put undue’ pressure on McElhinney to put Donegal ahead of DCU last weekend.

Martin McElhinney is a student at DCU and a member of the DCU senior football team and also a member of McGuinness’s Donegal senior squad. The story has once again highlighted the county versus College problem that has raised its head on a number of occasions in the last couple of seasons.

“I think we are going to have to seriously consider whether or not we enter the Dr. McKenna Cup next year if we don’t have the College players available to us. I think this is something the GAA is going to have to look into and who the College players are available too,” said McGuinness.

The Donegal manager totally rejected Moyna’s claim and branded it as nonsense and downright ridiculous.

However in making his case he stated that the Colleges have the players from October, while county managers - due to the training ban - are only allowed to get their squads together from the first of January and are expected to have them ready for competitions like the McKenna Cup a few days laters.

“It is certainly not working and I would urge the GAA to look at the whole subsidiary competition and if there is no change we will have to seriously consider not playing in the Dr. McKenna next year.”

McGuinness has been joined in the debate by former Donegal boss Brian McEniff. And while McEniff did not go quite as far as suggesting to withdraw from the McKenna Cup, he did argue that something has to be done about the whole county versus College situation.

In his column this week in the Democrat/People’s Press McEniff, who believes that Jim McGuinness should have first call on the players, argues that the Donegal manager should take a leaf out of Mickey Harte’s book and not release the players to the Colleges.

The Tyrone boss has had a number run-ins with the Ulster Council on the issue in recent years.

“This season Mickey did not release the players for the Dr. McKenna Cup and maybe this is something Jim should consider for next year.”

However, McEnff did acknowledge that there may a problem with players like Martin McElhinney who are on scholarships.

Like so many issues in the GAA this is another hardy annual that has raised its head a number of times in the last few years with county managers complaining of the fact that the Colleges have first call on the players.

Up until this week and Jim McGuinness’s outburst, Tyrone manager Mickey Harte has been the most high profile manager and possibly most vocal on the topic

Harte has had a number of scrapes with officialdom over the last few years and has on a number of occasions insisted on College players giving their first allegiance to Tyrone. He even went a step further this season and demanded that all College players in his squad play with the county.

Withdrawing from the McKenna Cup would be a drastic move and would be something that would not go down well in official circles and with traditionalists.