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Donegal set to experiment

Published 09/01/2013

By Frank Craig




DONEGAL'S All-Ireland winners are back from their holiday in Dubai ahead of their Power NI Dr McKenna Cup opener against Fermanagh in Enniskillen tonight.

But manager Jim McGuinness is expected to give his September heroes extra respite this month as those on the fringes are given a rare opportunity to stake their claim.

Tir Chonaill assistant boss Rory Gallagher revealed last week that a mixture of the senior reserves and a number pulled from this season's U21 side will get the competitive season under way in the hope of impressing ahead of the serious business of the National Football League.

Players such as Peter Boyle, Marty Boyle, Michael Boyle, Stephen Griffin, Daniel McLaughlin, Martin O'Reilly, Dermot Molloy (pictured below), Gary McFadden, Thomas McKinley and Adrian Hanlon are all likely to feature this evening again Peter Canavan's Erne charges.

Boyle, an Ulster winner and All-Ireland finalist with the U21s three seasons ago, says he can't wait to turn out for his county once again.

He spent last summer in Boston with another famous Donegal exile, Kevin Cassidy, and also missed out on that famous run which culminated in the landing of the Sam Maguire Cup for only the second time in the county's history.

But while Cassidy's absence was high-profile and seen as 'punishment' for his now infamous input into a published 'warts and all' account of the 2011 Championship, Boyle's decision was of his own making.

He said: "A lot of people ask me that question [do I regret going to America] and I don't mind being honest about it.

"Of course it was hard at times looking on, but I was delighted for all the boys and the management team. I went over there because I need to go to college. If I stayed at home, I might well have an All-Ireland medal but I'd be sitting at home unemployed. I still feel I made the right choice."

Now that the Aodh Ruadh stopper is back on home soil, he is determined to make up for lost time. And while some players might dread the mucky slog that comes with January football, Boyle is relishing the chance to catch the eye this evening.

He continued: "Some players might turn their nose up at it and say 'sure it's only McKenna Cup'. But it's still a county game and there's still going to be a crowd.

"For the likes of myself, for the next few years at least, this might be as good as it gets. So you have to make the most of it."

Of the provisional 20-man list submitted to the Ulster Council, only eight members of last year's All-Ireland-winning panel have been included for tonight.

Another six players are expected to be added in the coming week including the likes of Ryan McHugh (Kilcar), Shane McGowan (Bundoran) and Johnny Gallagher (Aodh Ruadh). Dungloe's Corey Gallagher is another who might well be drafted in.

"It's a great chance for everyone and I'm sure those that get their chance, especially now with the success we've had, will be desperate to do well," added Boyle.

"That might not always have been the case.

"It's great that Donegal has created such a buzz for everyone in the county and supporters will probably be looking forward to getting back out on the road again as well. Enniskillen is only up the road.

"Fermanagh are an up-and-coming side under Peter Canavan, so it'll be a good game. They'll be looking to prove themselves and others will be looking to see what kind of strength-in-depth is there for Donegal." DONEGAL PANEL P Boyle, K McFadden, C Cannon, T McKinley, C Ward, M McGowan, M Boyle, G McFadden, D McLaughlin, S Griffin, D Molloy, A Hanlon, O MacNiallais, S McGarvey, W Gillespie, M Boyle, P Carr, L Kelly, L Keaney, P Durcan

WEEKEND FIXTURES Saturday

Section B: Armagh v Cavan (Athletic Grounds, 7pm)

Section C: Derry v UUJ (Celtic Park, 7pm)

Sunday

Section A: Fermanagh v St Mary's UC (Brewster Park, 2pm); Donegal v Monaghan (Pairc MacCumhaill, 2pm)

Section C: Antrim v Tyrone (Casement Park, 2pm)