Donegal face Cavan this afternoon in the Dr. McKenna Cup as fears emerge over the fitness of county skipper Michael Murphy.
Murphy, who is not available for the Dr. McKenna Cup due to his commitment to Dublin City University in the O’Byrne Cup, did not play in Friday night’s challenge game with Connacht Club champions St. Brigid’s in Sligo.
And while there was no official comment on the ace forward, who is said to have a groin problem, concern was expressed by supporters that he might be a doubt for the start of the Natoinal League campaign, which begins with an away game against Down on Saturday 4th February.
Murphy played in the previous weekend’s challenge game with Roscommon but did not feature for DCU against Wicklow in the O’Byrne Cup on Sunday and is understood to have attended a specialist in Dublin on Monday.
His non participation on Friday night may have been a precaution and certainly that is what Donegal followers will be hoping given Murphy’s importance to the team.
Meanwhile All-Star Karl Lacey returned to action in Friday night’s challenge for the first time since picking up a knee injjry in last August’s All-Ireland semi-final and after a rusty start settled well in the game.
Dungloe’s Adrian Hanlon also returned on Friday night for the first time since being sensationally dropped from the squad last summer for what manager Jim McGuinness described at the time as a ‘breach of discipline.’
Donegal won Friday night’s game by a single point, 0-15 to 1-11, having lead 0-7 to 0-4 at half-time in what was a useful workout. Stephen Griffin, with seven points, was Donegal’s top scorer.
Former Roscommon star Frankie Dolan did the bulk of the scoring for St. Brigid’s, who started without Roscommon county men Karl Mannion and Senan Kilbride, but both were introduced in the second half.
For this afternoon’s Dr. McKenna Cup game, Jim McGuinness has not named his starting 15 and will not do so until close to game time. But once again, as he did last week against UUJ, the Donegal boss is expected to experiment and will use the game as an opportunity to run the rule over a number of players that caught his eye in the course of last season.
Christopher Murrin, Peter Witherow and Johnny Bonner are among those in line for a run out this afternoon.
Glenswilly’s Gary McFadden, Conor McManus (Kilcar), who both featured last weekend, will be anxious to get another opportunity to stake a claim for a permanent place in the panel.
McGuinness may be also anxious to have a look at Colm McFadden, who was togged out on Friday night in Slig, but did not take part in the game, and also give more game time to Rory Kavanagh, who played for most of the second half on Friday night.
Donegal must win this afternoon’s tie if they are harbour any notion of making the last four of the competition and the extra game Jim McGuinness spoke about ahead of the competition.
It is a similar story for Cavan, who also lost their opener last weekend away to Derry, in Celtic Park. The final games in the section take place on Wednesday night next when Donegal host Derry in Sean MacCumhaill Park and Cavan have UUJ at home in Breffni Park.