Donegal’s prospects for next season have suffered a blow with confirmation that Leo McLoone is not going to feature in the green and gold in 2017.
The versatile Naomh Conaill clubman (pictured) has confirmed to the Democrat that he has opted out of Rory Gallagher’s squad for next season. However, he did not wish to comment further on his decision at this point.
A regular during Jim McGuinness’s term as manager McLoone, who turned 27 this year, was confined in the main to replacement roles in both the league and championship in the past year.
In all, he made 12 appearances in 2016. Of those he started seven, three in the Dr McKenna Cup, and four in the league. The remainder were all as a replacement in the league and championship.
He did not start any of Donegal’s six championship games but was used from the bench against Fermanagh in the first round and scored two points.
This was his only appearance in the Ulster Championship. His other two championship appearances were as a sub against Cork, in the All-Ireland Qualifier, and Dublin in the All-Ireland quarter-final.
And although he seemed to suffer a dip in form during the year there was some surprise among Donegal followers given his experience and ball winning experience around the middle of the field that he did not get more game time.
This is his second time in recent years to opt out of the squad. He missed the first half of the 2015 season and only joined Rory Gallagher’s squad for the first time the week before that summer’s Ulster final meeting with Monaghan.
A three time Ulster Championship winner and an All-Ireland Championship winner, given his wealth of experience, his departure will be seen as a setback for Donegal and manager Rory Gallagher as he embarks on a rebuilding process over the next couple of seasons.