Sports Editor Peter Campbell
What can we hope for on the sporting front in 2018?
Don’t look back because there is so much to look forward to in 2018 on the sporting front. Will Donegal be able to make it to the Super 8s? That is one of the burning questions as we begin the New Year. There have been some big changes to the Donegal senior panel over the past couple of years and that is set to continue this year.
News that Michael Murphy, Frank McGlynn and Neil McGee will not be back until early March at the earliest would normally be bad news, but maybe it is a blessing in disguise as they need the rest. Murphy and Martin McElhinney, it is believed, had minor surgery, and will need the time to recover. There is a question mark over whether the Glenswilly man will be captain under Declan Bonner, but I would be of the opinion that he is still our spiritual leader, who carries himself so well.
The absence of those players along with the big number who called time last year means that there will be a very new-look Donegal taking part in the first three rounds of the National League against Kerry, Galway and Dublin. If Donegal have two points or better on the board by the time the fourth round comes around, then we would probably be happy. We have new panel members in every position with Shaun Patton joining as goalkeeper; Gary Merritt in defence; Nathan Mullins and Kevin McBrearty at midfield; Alan Lyons up front. We will need leaders to emerge with all of last year’s U-21s now needing to step up to the plate - players like Michael Carroll of Gaoth Dobhair; Stephen McMenamin of Red Hugh’s and Stephen McBrearty of Kilcar.
There are some exciting talent in the shape of Peadar Mogan and Niall O’Donnell while it is learned that there is a younger panel also being developed alongside the senior side with players such as Aaron Doherty of Naomh Columba involved.
We will look forward with interest also to see how the U-20s develop under the eye of Gary McDaid. There is no doubt that McDaid has a great knowledge of the playing potential from around the county and he has a good track record. There will need to be a good relationship between McDaid and Declan Bonner to ensure that players are developed into senior stars for the future - that, more than success, should be the big focus.
On the local club scene, Kilcar have a big decision to make this weekend at their AGM regarding management for 2018. Barry Doherty is still mulling over a decision to stay on in the hot seat, with rumours at the weekend that he might give it another year. It is not an easy job, but it is not easy walking away either. With Michael Hegarty and Conor McShane committed to another year, and with the infusion of a few of this year’s minor panel, Kilcar are in good shape to defend their league and championship titles.
Hope to see Seamie back soon
News from the Everton camp that Seamie Coleman is still some way off a return to action was disappointing. The horrific leg break sustained by the Killybegs man was a major setback. No one will doubt that Coleman has what it takes to return, but it reflects how bad the injury was that he is still out of action. It is a long and lonely journey but hopefully he will be back sooner rather than later.
Big year for Jason
The coming year will be a big year also for Twin Towns boxer Jason Quigley, who has also battled injury over the same timeframe as Coleman. Now that Quigley has changed boxing stable to join Dominic Ingle in Sheffield in England, maybe there will be a change of luck on the injury front as well.
Harps preparing well
News that Ciaran Gallagher has signed again for Finn Harps underlines the great work Ollie Horgan is doing in his preparation for the new season with the Finn Park side. Having first secured Paddy McCourt’s signature, Horgan has steadily built up his side and seems well advanced in his preparations. He might have to share McCourt’s time as the Derry man seems to be burning up the golf links at Buncrana in the last couple of months, rarely out of the winners’ enclosure.
As always it will not be easy for Harps, given the amount of travelling they have to do. But Horgan is the right man to give them every chance.
Happy New Year
Finally, a happy new year to all sportspeople. May you all achieve what you wish for in 2018.