GAA Football

Monaghan boss Malachy O'Rourke adds six new faces to Dr McKenna Cup squad

Monaghan manager Malachy O'Rourke will run the rule over some of the county's most exciting young talent during the McKenna Cup campaign. Star forward Conor McManus is poised to sit out out the pre-season competition

By Neil Loughran

MONAGHAN manager Malachy O’Rourke has proven that you don’t have to play senior football to get your chance to impress as all six newcomers in his Dr McKenna Cup squad are set to represent intermediate or junior clubs in 2018.

Amongst the sextet are exciting attacking trio David Garland (Donaghmoyne), James Wilson (Toome) and Barry McBennett (Doohamlet).

The other three new faces are Barry Kerr (Cremartin), Dean Connolly (Killanny) and Paraic McGuirk (Sean McDermott’s). McGuirk played full-back on the John Mitchel’s side that reached the All-Ireland Junior final in 2015 before losing out to Brosna.

John McCarron and Paudie McKenna (both Truagh Gaels) and Conor Boyle (Clontibret) are also recalled to the panel.

The Farney county have been drawn alongside Fermanagh, Donegal and Queen’s University in Section C of the pre-season competition, with their first game against the Ernemen at Brewster Park on Wednesday, January 3.

O’Rourke, who has tweaked his panel during the competition in the past, has left out some of his big hitters, such as Rory Beggan, Kieran Hughes and Conor McManus.

The latter said that he doesn’t know if he will feature in any of those three games, or subsequent knock-out fixtures, as he continues to carefully manage the hip injury that has nagged at him since 2010.

Earlier this year O’Rourke used the McKenna Cup to blood a host of emerging youngsters. His named panel suggests that he will do likewise in 2018, which could mean sharpshooter McManus is held in reserve until the League opener at home to All-Ireland finalists Mayo on January 28.

“I’ll have a chat with Malachy and that’ll be up to him,” he said.

“It’s not a case of picking and choosing when you want to play, it can all be dependent on the body and how it responds to rehab and things like that.

“It’s just basically train, see where the body’s at, if it needs a rest of more rehab or recovery, that’s what we’ll do. If not, we’ll play away. We’ll just have to see what unfolds over the next couple of weeks.”

Now 29, McManus is well used to managing his hip problem. Even when he walks away from football, he knows he will “always have to mind it”.

Medical professionals have warned the Clontibret ace he could face a potential hip replacement down the line but, while he’s still playing and still regarded as one of the best forwards in the country, such thoughts have been banished to the back of his mind.

“It’s something that has been mentioned, but it’s not something I think about,” says McManus, who had hip surgery in 2011.

“It is what it is. I just have to keep up the exercises that make sure the movement in it is as good as possible. Whatever comes down the line, I’ll deal with that whenever it comes.”

With the onset of another county season just around the corner, though, he admits his training regime sometimes has to be tinkered with.

“Slightly – not massively. It’s just a matter of getting it up to speed and keeping it there.

“Sometimes you might have to step back from an odd session here or there but once you’re training, you’re training.

“Sometimes it can kick back and play up on you, but I’m just one of a number of players with this injury. For me it’s just about managing it and trying to make the best out of it.

“It’s not something I spend a massive amount of time worrying about – there’s no point. When I’m playing I just try to work with it as best I can.”

Monaghan Dr McKenna Cup squad

C Forde, K McQuaid, J McCarron, C Boyle, O Coyle, B Kerr, K Duffy, J Mealiff, K O’Connell, F Kelly, P McGuirk, S Finnegan, A Lynch, N McAdam, B Greenan, D Hughes, N Kearns, M Bannigan, D Ward, D Freeman, P McKenna, T Kerr, J Wislon, D Garland, B McBennett, D Connolly

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