Rory Gallagher's Donegal hit by the departure of long-serving trio
DONEGAL will be missing eight players from last year’s squad in the biggest shake-up in the county since 2010.
Tír Chonaill manager Rory Gallagher announced at a press briefing in Ballybofey on Tuesday that long-serving Rory Kavanagh, Christy Toye and David Walsh have gone from the squad.
This experienced trio join Colm McFadden, Eamon McGee, Leo McLoone, Anthony Thompson and Odhrán Mac Niallais on the list of the departed: “Anthony Thompson has not retired, he has a number of work commitments himself and we will touch base later,” Gallagher said.
“Christy Toye still felt his body was keen but he has other personal commitments. We would have been very aware of those situations as early as coming up the road from the Dublin match last year. I felt that Christy might be there and Anthony too, but that’s the situation.
"We have to be realistic as Rory was just coming back for a year and he is 35, while Christy Toye is 34. David Walsh is 35 this year and Colm McFadden too and we are well aware that the road was ending for them. Of them all, I felt that Christy was athletically in a good place, but he had other personal circumstances.”
And while most of those players did not start, Gallagher said he knew last April that Odhran Mac Niallais was going to leave the squad: “But the door is always open for Odhran and he has personal reasons,” added Gallagher.
Gallagher said he was now focused on the squad that includes 16 U21s since they resumed training last September. These departures mean that Donegal will be under pressure to fill central positions.
When asked about the background to Leo McLoone’s much-discussed departure, Gallagher said: “We must respect everyone’s decision.”
On a brighter note, Neil Gallagher is back doing light training and he is on the road to recovery. Toye and Kavanagh’s contribution to Donegal has been “phenomenal” said Gallagher.
“It is sad for both of them. They owed nobody anything and they have enjoyed their careers, Christy Toye was on the Sigerson Cup [Sligo IT] panel with me in 2002.”
The Donegal chief added that he was really happy with the squad at his disposal currently: “I am delighted with the squad and there is a lot of youth in it,” he said.
When asked if an Ulster title was a long-term objective, Gallagher stated that Donegal were focusing on the NFL initially: “Eoghan Bán Gallagher, Caolan McGonigle, Kieran Gillespie, Conor Morrison, Cian Mulligan, Stephen Mulligan, Stephen McLaughlin, Rory Carr, Mark Coyle, Brendan McCole, Jamie Brennan, Michael Langan, Ethan O’Donnell. Jason McGee, Michael Carroll and Enda McCormick are all U21 and are all part of our senior squad,” he said.
“We met a lot of those guys and they have put in a lot of work and you could see the evidence of that at the weekend. We met with Declan [Bonner] in November about this. We have also met this week and the players will be training with the senior team 95 per cent of the time and will be released for games when necessary.”