McFaul blow for Derry
CIARAN McFaul is no longer part of the Derry panel ahead of the Championship, dealing a major blow to the Oak Leafers’ hopes of a tilt at the provincial crown.
Derry boss Rory Gallagher yesterday confirmed to The Irish News that McFaul has departed the scene, citing his disappointment at the Glen man’s “commitment levels…since the very start of the year”.
McFaul had been the outstanding player in his club’s first ever county championship success, sticking out a mile in his role as an attacking centre-back for Malachy O’Rourke’s side.
But having been his county’s stand-out performer over a number of seasons, McFaul’s form had dipped somewhat this year with the exception of a fine display in the heavy defeat by Galway, in which he was sent off in stoppage time.
He had tallied 0-7 across six appearances, although he didn't play against Cork and only came off the bench against Clare and Roscommon.
McFaul will nonetheless be considered a very significant absentee when Derry begin their hunt for a first Ulster title for 24 years against either Tyrone or Fermanagh.
That game will take place in either Celtic Park (if it’s Fermanagh) or Healy Park on May 1.
“Ciaran’s no longer part of our panel,” said Gallagher.
“It’s come to an end in a way that suits both parties.
“Ciaran’s commitment levels haven’t been what has been needed since the very start of the year and by his own admission he’s not performed as we would expect him to.
“If he wants to revisit that for next year, we’ll certainly look at that but for now he won’t be involved.”
The Glen man is understood to be bound for America to play football for the summer, returning to Donegal Boston where he stood out during the club’s championship success in 2018.
Rumours of his Stateside plans had hung around throughout the Allianz League, and have come as no surprise to county or club, with the latter likely to be missing him for the early stages of the Derry championship.
Changes to eligibility rules around sanctions being granted to play championship in the States have forced the hand of a number of players, with Down duo Liam Kerr and Finn McElroy understood to have opted out of their panel for the same reason.
McFaul became the star turn on his 2018 trip. With all eyes on Diarmuid Connolly’s debut for Donegal Boston, it was the Derry man who scored 3-2 that afternoon and went on to have a huge role in their success.
Better news for Derry is that Gareth McKinless will be available for the Championship opener after receiving just a one-match ban from an incident at the end of the Galway game.
The Ballinderry man served that ban in the final League game against Meath.
Padraig Cassidy is also expected to be fully fit. His start in the last-day win over the Royals was the first of a league campaign punctuated by niggling injuries that the versatile Slaughtneil man has struggled to shake.
Gallagher had primary access to U20s such as Lachlan Murray throughout the league but with Paddy Bradley’s side having been knocked out last week, the senior setup will get a free run at it between now and whenever the summer ends.
McFaul’s defection and the manner of them having missed out on promotion has slightly tempered growing expectations, but Gallagher remains upbeat about their prospects.
“We’re delighted with the attitude and quality of our squad but we had a bad first half against Galway,” said Gallagher.
“We’ve had a ferocious two weeks since the end of the league and pushed things to a new level physically.
“I don’t really know what the hype is like living outside the county.
“I still feel there’s only a kick of a ball between ourselves and Galway, it was no surprise to me that Roscommon beat them in the league final, I think there’s nothing in it between the three teams.”