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McGuinness has eye on new faces for 2013

Published 07/11/2012

EAMONN O'HARA




WHEN the talking starts, now that the commitments have stopped for 2012, Jim McGuinness will sound out a couple of new faces for Donegal's defence of their titles next season.

St Eunan's smash and grab victory in the senior county final over McGuinness's club Glenties drew a line under the top tier of domestic competition last weekend.

At intermediate level, Aodh Ruadh and Termon contest final championship bragging rights tonight ahead of Sunday's provincial quarter-final for the winners against Antrim's Aghagallon.

Letterkenny's outfit have a significantly bigger catch on their radar as they carry Donegal's hopes for a giant-killing into Ulster's main event on Sunday, a first round acid test at the Morgan Athletic Grounds against the All-Ireland kingpins of the past two seasons, Crossmaglen.

Massive games at respective levels, they are also shop windows for McGuinness and assistant Rory Gallagher to make judgement calls on anyone reckoned to have the qualities they are looking for to add anything to the squad for the 2013 NFL and Championship campaigns.

The ultimate objective is to return to the All-Ireland final next September and try and see the monumental task of retaining the Sam Maguire Cup through.

"It is going to be very difficult to win it but, you know, at the end of the day what you are trying to do is improve all the time and there would be a few players in my mind alright, so we will have to have a look at that," said McGuinness.

"There would be two or three out there that we would be interested in. We will see are they interested in coming in, first and foremost, are able to commit, and we will look at our squad then."

McGuinness indicated that he intends to work off a panel of between 33 and 35 players "for the winter".

He said the management will assess individual development and see "who can grow", and ideally he is looking for a couple of players to emerge to intensify competition for first 15 places.

"You know you make calculated guesses, I suppose. This is our third year now which is a big, big difference from year one in terms of you would not have known anybody," he said.

"We have now got a fairly good handle on our squad and if one player, two players or three players can come in and add anything at all, it's a big, big boost.

"What you want is a situation where fellas coming in are actually coming in to add value in terms of pushing for game-time."

McGuinness sees "no real point in tweaking it" if the potential newcomers he has his eye on don't tick all the essential boxes.

"There are a couple of players out there that are in my head at the minute and if we can sit down with them and talk to them, see where they are at, and are they prepared to step in. We will look at that in the coming weeks," McGuinness said.

Eight of the Ulster and All-Ireland-winning team are bound for New York next month, as is McGuinness as the 2012 team manager, for the GAA's Allstar tour, with the 2011 Allstar select to play them in the annual exhibition match at Gaelic Park in the Bronx.

On arriving back, Donegal are finalising plans for a 10-day holiday to reward the squad for its fantastic effort and successes, probably to Dubai, prior to January's start of the Dr McKenna Cup.

For several, though, the pre-season is important for another reason, to address injury issues and regain conditioning and fitness prior to the start of the National Football League on February 3 in Division One, when they travel to take on Kieran McGeeney's Kildare.

Player of the Year Karl Lacey, captain Michael Murphy and Mark McHugh were among those who attended Saturday's 'Match for Michaela', but were unable to take part due to injury.

Lacey is having treatment for a quad muscle problem and shoulder ligament damage, McHugh for an osteopubis condition, while Murphy has a stress fracture to a toe.

McGuinness hoped none were long-term issues, while Christy Toye played against Ulster despite slight tendinitis in a knee.

"He played through the pain barrier and played pretty well. Now is a period of recovery and rest for them. Rehab and then prehab, then the gym will start and then the training," he said.

"It's a good opportunity now for everybody to get the body right and get any injuries sorted out, get very low intensity rehab and get themselves ready for the next campaign.

"If you don't do that, and you don't take care of yourself, you're going to come back and pick up injuries that you should not pick up and have a sluggish start."