Donegal are bringing the term 'giving youth a fling' to a whole new level in this season’s Dr McKenna Cup, which throws-in this Sunday.
A very youthful Donegal squad, drawn from this season’s county U-21 squad and managed by U-21 manager Declan Bonner, are set to face the University of Ulster Jordanstown in Ballybofey. (Throw-in 2pm)
Senior manager, Rory Gallagher, is taking a back seat for this season’s Dr McKenna Cup and will watch the three games from the stand.
The involvement of a large number of Gallagher’s squad with Colleges is the reason behind the decision, Donegal chairman, Sean Dunnion, told the Democrat last week.
Rory Gallagher is not available to comment until next week.
Ryan and Eoin McHugh and Patrick McBrearty are tied to UUJ and will face Donegal in Sunday’s opener.
Kieran Gillespie, Dublin Institute of Technology, and Caolan McGonigle, Dublin City University, from last year’s senior squad are tied to their respective Colleges for the O’Byrne Cup in Leinster.
They are the main absentees from the senior squad while Cian Mulligan, who is a member of this season’s senior squad, is also tied to DCU for the O’Byrne Cup. Mulligan, Gillespie and McGonigle will definitely miss Sunday’s game against UUJ and the following week’s clash with Cavan as will Lorcan Connor, who is a member of the UUJ squad.
Donegal’s other two games in the opening series of games are home to Cavan, on Sunday week, and away to Tyrone three nights later, Wednesday 18th.
Declan Bonner unveiled his squad earlier this week and most of the squad played in Tuesday’s North West U-21 Cup defeat to Sligo in O’Donnell Park.
It is made up of players from the minor teams of the last three years.
Eoghan ‘Ban’ Gallagher is the most experienced of those named while Stephen McBrearty and Michael Carroll have also had a number of outings with the seniors.
But overall it is a very inexperienced squad.
“That is the squad for the Dr McKenna Cup; we may look at bringing one or two more in such as Kevin McGettigan from Naomh Conaill, but that is basically it,” Bonner said after the six point defeat to Sligo in the North West Cup.
“This is where we are at. We will give them their opportunity in January and let’s see if we can build a bit of confidence within themselves and coming into the Dr McKenna Cup we have a number of huge games coming up against top opposition.
“We would like to be competitive but it is going to be difficult with so many lads at College.
“We are facing UUJ on Sunday, all of whom are senior intercounty footballers, and then we have Cavan, who are looking forward to playing in Division One of the League for the first time in a good few years.
“And then we face Ulster champions, Tyrone, all very strong teams; it is going to be a real baptism of fire for our lads.”
The Donegal boss is hoping to have Conor Morrison, Jason McGee, Jamie Brennan and Michael Carroll for Sunday’s clash with the Martin McHugh managed UUJ.
However, he is going to be without Stephen McBrearty, who limped out of Tuesday’s game with a hamstring injury.
“Stephen injured his hamstring and it looks like he will be out for two to three weeks which means he is gone for the month of January.”
Bonner also admitted last night (Wednesday) in the latest update on his squad he was now sweating on the availability of Michael Carroll and Jason McGee, both down with a bug.
Bonner and his management team are not expected to finalise the starting team until Sunday.
FULL DONEGAL PANEL