Leo McLoone opts out of the Donegal squad for 2017

Experienced Naomh Conaill clubman’s decision a blow for manager Rory Gallagher

Donegal’s chances of regaining the Ulster championship have been dented after Leo McLoone pulled out of the squad for next year.

The versatile Naomh Conaill clubman has confirmed to the Donegal Democrat that he has opted out of Rory Gallagher's squad for next season.

However, he did not wish to comment further on his decision at this point.

A regular during Jim McGuinness’s term as manager, McLoone, who turned 27 this year, was confined in the main to replacement roles in both the league and championship in the past year.


In all, he made 12 appearances throughout 2016.

Of those he started seven, three in the Dr McKenna Cup, and four in the league. The remainder were all as a substitute in the league and championship.

He did not start any of Donegal’s six championship games but was used from the bench against Fermanagh in the first round and scored two points.

This was his only appearance in the Ulster championship.

His other two championship appearances were as a sub against Cork, in the All-Ireland qualifier, and Dublin in the All-Ireland quarter-final.

Second time

Although he seemed to suffer a dip in form during the year there was some surprise that he did not get more game time, given his experience and ball-winning expertise around the middle of the field.

In 2014 he had an outstanding game against Kerry in the All-Ireland final, even though it was clear from the start the Kingdom had bracketed him for considerable attention.

This is his second time in recent years to opt out of the squad.

He missed the first half of the 2015 season and only joined Rory Gallagher’s squad for the first time the week before that summer’s Ulster final meeting with Monaghan.

A three-time Ulster championship winner and an All-Ireland championship winner, given his wealth of experience his departure will be seen as a setback for Donegal and manager Rory Gallagher as he embarks on a rebuilding process over the next couple of seasons.

But at the relatively young age of 27, his departure might not be for too long.

And the big influx of young under-21 stars this season just might be the trigger for a return for the vastly experienced and versatile Naomh Conaill man.