GAA Football

Tyrone Allstar Ronan McNamee criticises Donegal's McKenna Cup withdrawal

Tyrone's Ronan McNamee in action during the only BOI Dr McKenna Cup semi-final this year, against Down.
Pic Philip Walsh
Francis Mooney

Tyrone’s Ronan McNamee says there can be no excuse for Donegal’s withdrawal from the Dr McKenna Cup.

The Allstar full-back insists they should have been able to field a team for last weekend’s semi-final, despite the loss of several players to Sigerson Cup duty.

The decision by Declan Bonner to forfeit the game gave Monaghan a bye to Saturday’s final against the Red Hands.

“I think it’s just an excuse to be honest. I would rather be playing football than be training.

“Maybe I’ll stand on a few toes by saying that, but I don’t really care,” said McNamee, who lives close to the Donegal border.

“If we’re able to field and Down is able to field, I’m sure everybody else is able to field.

“It’s been going on elsewhere. Corofin are constantly clashing (with fixtures). Your boy Molloy is playing for NUIG and playing for his club on the same weekend.

“Don’t get me wrong, it’s not ideal, but it wasn’t an issue when the Sigerson weekend was three games on the same weekend, there was no talk about player burn-out or player welfare then, so I don’t know what the big panic is now.”

Tyrone were also affected by Sigerson Cup commitments last weekend, with Mickey Harte able to name a match-day squad of just 21 for their last four clash with the Mourne men.

But the holders ran out comfortable winners, a nine points success at the Athletic Grounds keeping them on course for an eighth title in nine seasons.

“There’s a lot of boys away playing Sigerson, that leave squads depleted at this time of year, but whatever was there, the boys dug in and got a good enough result out of it.

“And when you’re carrying a few niggles, and boys are getting a big of game time but not necessarily ready for 70 minutes, it leaves it tight for numbers, and it puts a load on everybody else.

“But it’s good to be fit to take a jersey and run out on to the field and be grateful for the position you’re in. Every day you get to tog out for Tyrone is a good day. I’m just glad to be back and healthy and ready for Saturday night.

“It’s always nice to get competitive games at this time of the year, and it’s nice to get back to another McKenna Cup final.”

With skipper Mattie Donnelly on the long-term injury list, the captaincy has been rotated during the pre-season competition, and it was McNamee who was handed the role last weekend.

“It’s not often you get the chance at this level, but with Mattie and Petie being away, he’s been passing it about to a few different lads.

“It’s obviously a great honour, but at the end of the day, you shouldn’t be making it any different than any other day.”

A 1-2 salvo from an Aghyaran trio late on finally killed off Down’s challenge, with Ronan McHugh coming off the bench to smash home a goal, goalkeeper Benny Gallen converting a ’45, and full-back McNAmee also landing a score.

“It was nice for the three of us to finish a game together. Ronan is coming back from a serious injury, and it’s good to see him back and getting game time and just being well enough to play games.

“And obviously Benny and Morgan are toughing it out there, game about.

“It’s nice for the club to be representing the county, we’re all proud Tyrone men and any day you’re given the chance to run out, you’re very grateful for it”.

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