No National League action on the horizon for injured Patrick McBrearty: Donegal boss Declan Bonner

Injured ace Patrick McBrearty is unlikely to be back for any of Donegal's National League games

PATRICK McBrearty won’t be back until the start of the Ulster Championship, according to Donegal boss Declan Bonner.

The Kilcar attacker underwent knee surgery last summer after coming off in the Ulster final against Fermanagh.

The hope was McBrearty might have been fit to squeeze in some National League action, but Bonner has targeted a Championship return instead.

“He's well on his way in terms of his rehab,” said Bonner.

“It'll probably be Championship before we see him. He will probably be back on the pitch in late March but the League will probably come too quick for him.”

Gweedore defender Kieran Gillespie is unlikely to play any part in Donegal’s plans after suffering a similar cruciate ligament injury as McBrearty last November.

Gillespie sustained the injury in the opening exchanges of his club’s Ulster quarter-final with Erin’s Own Cargin.

“Kieran Gillespie got his ACL done two or three weeks ago and will miss most of the season,” Bonner confirmed.

“As for the rest of them, Michael [Murphy], Frank [McGlynn], Paddy McGrath, Leo [McLoone], Ryan [McHugh], Eoghan 'Ban' [Gallagher] will all come in over the next few weeks.”

Reacting to Martin McElhinney’s assertion the 2019 Donegal squad is the strongest he’s ever been part of, Bonner acknowledged that he has around 15 more players who will be pushing for Championship places later this year.

“I was counting there are about 15 lads who will probably be involved come Championship time who are not here yet so it's giving lads an opportunity. It gives you hope moving forward and they are a really committed bunch of lads.”

Bonner gave run-outs to a host of young players on Sunday and they still managed to beat, albeit a depleted Down side by 10 points.

Peadar Morgan had a solid game at wing half-back while fellow U20 players Oisin Gallen and Paddy Dolan saw some game-time from the bench in Newry.

Bonner has also shook up his backroom team with former Mayo manager Stephen Rochford joining the Tir Chonaill effort this season.

“No disrespect to the people who were there, we looked at where we were in terms of winning Ulster and it was brilliant to win Ulster but we felt we came up a little bit short in the Super 8s and no more than looking at the playing personnel you look at every aspect of it,” explained Bonner.

“I was working on the Tuesday after the [Super 8s] defeat to Tyrone; I was already looking forward to this season and where we can improve and where we need to improve. That's part and parcel of it and it's part of my job to do that.”

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