Paddy Carr without injured quartet as Donegal begin season against Down at Pairc Esler
Dr McKenna Cup, Section A, round 2: Down v Donegal (tomorrow, Pairc Esler, 1.30pm)
By Andy Watters
EXPERIENCED quartet Michael Langan, Eoghan Ban Gallagher, Paul Brennan and Oisin Gallen are all ruled out of Donegal’s Dr McKenna Cup campaign which begins against Down in Newry tomorrow.
New manager Paddy Carr has to plan without them while factoring-in the dozen players who will represent four colleges in the Sigerson Cup next week and the youngsters who’ll be involved in the Donegal U20 championship (the semi-finals are being played tonight).
Fanad native Carr has plenty on his plate but despite that he said “they’re going very good” when asked how preparations for his first season in inter-county management were progressing.
“There was a very good development squad under Declan (Bonner) and there is emerging talent coming through,” Carr added.
“We have kept that process going and it’s our intention to freshen the squad somewhat and we’re looking forward to seeing how some of the young lads will perform. When you’re playing Division One football, there’s only a limited window of opportunity to allow them to show their best and the McKenna Cup is one of those opportunities.
“We’re hoping to get a look at six or seven lads who haven’t played Championship for Donegal before and a few who are making their senior debut at inter-county level so it will be a fresh-enough team.
“We’re also keeping an eye on how the lads are progressing with their colleges because the National League will come very quickly and we’re entertaining the All-Ireland champions (Kerry) in Ballybofey at the end of the month.”
As for the four experienced players he’ll be without, Carr explained that they are all recovering from “long-term injuries” and are at “various stages” of the route back to full fitness.
“It’s our wish to have them all back as soon as possible,” said Carr who is also minus now-retired Michael Murphy and Neil McGee.
“They’re all making progress and in a week or two we’ll be in a better position to say when they’ll be back. It’s an on-going process.”
Home side Down have Wednesday’s confidence-boosting win over Monaghan in Castleblayney under their belts. Conor Laverty’s side were good value for their win against the defending McKenna Cup champions and an energetic display was underpinned by goals from youngsters Andrew Gilmore, in the first half, and Odhran Murdock, in the second.
“There’s no better way to build momentum than by getting good performances and good results,” Carr observed.
“Down are a step ahead of us in that because they had a fine performance in Castleblayney. Conor Laverty is a very charismatic guy and he’ll bring the best out of the people around him. We’re looking forward to the game and we know that there’s a different kind of encounter (an Ulster Championship quarter-final) coming up against Down in the early summer which adds a wee bit of spice to Sunday’s game.
Carr, a former Donegal player who has a vast reservoir of experience management at county level with Louth and at club level with Down’s Burren and Dublin’s Killmacud and Ballymun, added that it was “a very special thing” for him to be back in the Donegal dressingroom.
“The management team and the players are putting everything into it,” he said.
“It’ll be nice to get a good performance on Sunday and kick-off with a good feeling and we’re looking forward to the journey this season.”