Tom Comack firstname.lastname@example.org @dgldemocrat
Like Donegal footballers, it is all change for Donegal hurlers as they embark on the new Allianz National Hurling League against Louth on Sunday in O’Donnell Park. (Throw in 2 pm)
Up to 14 of the squad used by manager Ardal McDermott last year have departed the squad for a variety of reasons from retirement, studies and work commitments.
Among those first choices no longer part of the setup are Sean McVeigh (studying in Spain), Ciaran Mathewson and Mark Callaghan (on peacekeeping duties with the Irish Defence Forces), Christopher McDermott (working in London), Paddy Hannigan (work) and Paul Sheridan (retired).
Paul Sheridan has joined McDermott’s management team and the loss of the above mentioned have been compensated for with a number of high profile signings over the closed season.
Former Nicky Rackard All-Stars Declan Coulter from Armagh and Gerard Gilmore, Tyrone have both declared for Donegal and are expected to be in the team for Sunday’s clash with Louth.
And they have been joined by former Tipperary Intermediate player and Roscrea clubman David Flynn.
“The three lads are working and living in the county and of course Gerard Gilmore was very influential in MacCumhaill’s championship win last year,” Donegal manager Ardal McDermott told the Democrat.
“They are huge additions, especially given the number of players that we are without and they certainly will fill in some of the gaps.”
McDermott has also drafted a number of the county’s emerging underage talent.
The three newcomers are expected to slot into the team for the word go and will, along with Jamsie Donnelly, Joe Boyle, Niall Cleary, Lee Henderson, Danny Cullen, Kevin Campbell, Padraig Doherty and Ronan McDermott, backbone the team.
Donegal have also been boosted by the return of experienced forward Enda McDermott after missing all of last season following cruciate surgery.
Among the younger players making the step up are Cathal Doherty, Aidan Stokes, Paddy Wilson, Jamie De Ward, Ciaran Rami, Ciaran Kelly and Dean McDevitt.
“We have been back training since mid November. We concentrated on gym work and strength and conditioning up to Christmas.
“And since Christmas we have been working away on grass and we have also played a couple of games.”
Donegal were well beaten by Derry in the McGuirk Cup in their first game at the start of the year.
But they drew with Mayo, who play at the higher level, the weekend before last.
Donega were relegated from Division 2B at the end of last season after spending two seasons in the higher league.
Following the withdrawal of Fingal, Division 3A has been revamped for 2017 and now will be played over a double round of home and away games with each team playing six games.
Donegal, Louth, Monaghan and Tyrone make up the 2017 Division.
“We have a hectic schedule of games coming up. We have six games over seven weeks and if we are to qualify for the Division Three final it will be seven games in nine weeks.
“The risk with such a schedule is picking up injuries and if we were to make the final we would then only have a couple of weeks to get ready for the championship and the Nicky Rackard Cup.”
Donegal will be hoping the experience of playing at the higher level over the last two seasons will stand to them now that they are down a level.
“We hope to do well and we expect to be back at the end of the campaign pushing for promotion. But I expect Tyrone and Louth to be up there too in contention at the end of the season.
“And you never know what to expect from Monaghan. The bottom line is there are no easy games and starting this weekend we are just taking it one game at a time.”
Ardal McDermott is to finalise his team for Sunday’s opener after training tomorrow night (Friday).
The Donegal squad for 2017 is as follows:
Paul Burns, Dylan Lafferty, Dara Grant, Jamsie Donnelly, Padraig Doherty, Stephen Gillespie, Joe Boyle, Jack O'Loughlin, Niall Cleary, Danny Cullen, Enda McDermott, Richie Kee, Paul Nelson, David Flynn, Lee Henderson, Cathal Doherty, Kevin Campbell, Declan Coulter, Colm Melaugh, Aidan Stokes, Sean Curran, Ciaran Rami, Jamie De Ward, Paddy Wilson, Dean McDevitt, Marty McGrath.