Donegal minus four top players for the first half of the Allianz National Football League
Donegal are going to be minus four top players for the first half of the Allianz National Football League, which gets under way at the end of next month.
Team captain Michael Murphy, Neil McGee and Frank McGlynn will miss Donegal's opening three games at least as they are all recovering from various niggles and are only doing gym work at the present.
Experienced corner back Paddy McGrath is battling to come back form a cruciate ligament injury.
Donegal have a tough opening three games, away to Kerry, at home to Galway and then away again to Dublin.
So the absent stars could be doing some fire fighting if things do not go to plan.
All three are expected to return to full training next week but will not have enough work done in time for the start of the Allianz League.
Meanwhile Paddy McGrath is recovering from a cruciate ligament injury and is aiming for a return by early March.
The league begins with an away tie against Kerry in Killarney on Sunday, January 28th.
“It was always going to be the case where the three boys were going to miss the start of the league,” said Donegal manager Declan Bonner, who has his side back in training this week in preparation for the start of the new season.
The 2018 season begins with the Dr McKenna Cup and a home game against Queen's University, Belfast, next Wednesday night, January 3 in Ballybofey.
“They (Murphy, McGee and McGlynn) are all back in training and working on strength and conditioning in the gym for a number of weeks.
“But they have done no pitch work yet but are due back on the pitch next week and simply they won't have enough pitch work done for start of the league.
“We will monitor them closely over the next few weeks and it is hard to say when they will be fit to play. But I think you can rule out the first three games at least.”
Donegal's first three games are away to Kerry, home to Galway and away to All-Ireland champions, Dublin.
In all Donegal have four away games and three at home.
Ulster champions, Tyrone and Monaghan are the other away games while the home games are Galway, Kildare and Mayo.
“We want to win every game. We want to do well in the league and stay up,'' added Bonner.
“But the Championship is the bigger picture and all our concentration and focus is May 13 in Ballybofey against Cavan in the Championship.
“That is our big day and we want to be ready for it and have everybody 100% and that is why we will not play the boys until they are fully fit and good to go.
“That is where we are at and where we want to be for the Cavan challenge.”
Meanwhile, Declan Bonner also revealed that Leo McLoone is in a race against the clock to be fit in time for the opening league game against Kerry.
McLoone opted out last season, but is back in the fold again and has a number of weeks' training on the pitch under his belt.
“Leo is making good progress. He had a problem and he got it sorted and is close to being ready for the start of the league,'' added Bonner.
“But with the league starting a week earlier this year, the first game may come a week or two soon for Leo.”
Michael Murphy, Neil McGee and Frank McGlynn are big players for Donegal and with Paddy McGrath already out of the reckoning until March, Donegal will be fielding a real new-look team.