Donegal come back to earth
As Ulster and All-Ireland football champions, 2012 team of the year, and winner of eight All Stars, it must feel like something of a comedown for Donegal to discover that Fermanagh are fancied to beat them in this evening’s Dr McKenna Cup, at least according to the bookmakers.
The reality, of course, is that Donegal only touched down yesterday from a 10-day team holiday in Dubai, will make the trip to Brewster Park this evening with only a pale shadow of the team that won the All-Ireland title last September, and won’t be too bothered by the result.
If fact it’s unclear how many, if any of all, of their All-Ireland winning team will be available to manager Jim McGuinness, and it may be shortly before throw-in before McGuinness even knows himself. Donegal have named a provisional 20-man panel for the Dr McKenna Cup, including nine of the All-Ireland winning panel, but there hasn’t been any proper collective training at all this season, with no assurance of how many of players will be fit.
They did, reportedly, endure some beachfront training in Dubai, while staying at the five-star Mövenpick Ibn Battuta Gate Hotel, and also took in the popular Sandance party at Palm Jumeirah on New Year’s Eve. Among those definitely not featuring this evening is 2012 footballer of the year Karl Lacey, who underwent hip surgery before Christmas and thus in the process of a 14-week recovery period.
Captain won’t feature
All-Ireland winning captain Michael Murphy won’t feature either, as his loyalties are currently with DCU, although he won’t be playing for them yet, either, as they take on Dublin at Parnell Park, and nor will his fellow All-Ireland winner Martin McElhinney. Goalkeeper Michael Boyle is also with DCU this year, but currently ineligible, pending appeal.
Of the 20-man panel named, then, the only All-Ireland winning players are Paul Durcan, Dermot Molloy, Gary McFadden, Thomas McKinley, Daniel McLaughlin, Marty Boyle, Stephen Griffin, Adrian Hanlon and Michael Boyle.
Elsewhere, Laois manager Justin McNulty has made nine changes in total, to keep alive his chances of making the O’Byrne Cup semi-final, after the first round defeat to Offaly – and recalled for this evening’s game against Westmeath are Cahir Healy, Peter O’Leary, Darren Strong, John O’Loughlin, Colm Begley, Colm Coss, Ross Munnelly, Billy Sheehan and Pádraig Clancy.
Kildare manager Kieran McGeeney has, likewise, re-jigged his team for the meeting with DIT. Meath manager Mick O’Dowd makes seven changes for the meeting with Louth in Navan. Finally, Eoin Rigney has been named in the Offaly team to face Athlone IT, replacing Paul McConway, the only change made by manager Emmett McDonnell to the side that defeated Laois on Sunday.