GAA

Donegal stars returning but McGuinness wants more depth

Oisin Gallen
Oisin Gallen Oisin Gallen

DONEGAL may have a number of established players to return to their table-topping team but Jim McGuinness insists he still wants to blood more talent.

The Tir Chonaill team will head to Cavan this weekend leading Division Two after their thumping opening victory over Cork and should have even more playing options available.

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Full-forward Oisin Gallen was not risked against the Rebels due to a hamstring concern but McGuinness expects to have him in Kingspan Breffni:

“He’s very, very close. It’s not even a tear. It’s just a strain that he picked up two weeks ago actually. He played last weekend and felt alright and it just tightened a wee bit on him and we said we wouldn’t take a chance on him.”

Michael Langan won't feature in the opening stages of Donegal's League campaign Picture by Margaret McLaughlin
Michael Langan won't feature in the opening stages of Donegal's League campaign Picture by Margaret McLaughlin Michael Langan. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin

Gavin Mulreany got a league debut as goalkeeper due to a suspension for the first choice Shaun Patton, but he’s available for selection against Cavan, as may be other experienced men, said McGuinness: “Michael Langan, very close…Hughie [McFadden] getting closer, Eoghan ‘Ban’ [Gallagher] got the time.

“There’ll be three or four probably available for next weekend, then another four that will take another couple of weeks. Jason McGee is probably in that second category.”

Yet despite the imminent return of all those experienced men, McGuinness is glad to give chances to fresher faces. His Naomh Conaill clubmate Kevin McGettigan got his league bow, although he only lasted less than half an hour before a bang to an Achilles tendon forced him to be replaced by Gallagher.

Younger debutants included Ciaran Moore and Domhnall MacGiolla Bhride, while Oisin Caulfield came off the bench.

Donegal's Caolan McGonagle and Domhnall MacGiolla Bhride with Matty Taylor of Cork
Donegal's Caolan McGonagle and Domhnall MacGiolla Bhride with Matty Taylor of Cork during the National Football League Div 2 match played at Ballybofey on Sunday 28th January 2024. Picture Margaret McLaughlin (Margaret McLaughlin Photography )

McGuinness insisted that not all the better-known names would simply step back into the team:

“Listen, nobody knows how it’s going to fall down the line. Just because people have been here and are tried and tested, I believe it’s up to everybody when you’re in a squad to put their best foot forward and, if you get a chance, take it and stay in the team. That’s what they want

“Obviously some of them are very important, the likes of Michael [Langan] and Jason [McGee] have massive presence and in the first half there, when we needed to fetch or break ball, they would have been very, very helpful to us in that situation. There are all of those types of things going on.

“At the same time, delighted that the younger lads that got their opportunity were able to step up.”

“We need a squad and we need as much depth as possible so we are developing those young lads as best we can in a short timeframe, and then we obviously have a number of lads to come back into it as well so we need them up to full speed.”

The Glenties man acknowledged he has several aims for what would make this a successful league campaign: “I think finding players. Settling on a style. We are road-testing loads of things. We have always done that. We are asking different questions off the boys, we have played friendlies this year which we had never done before.

“We have to, because we want to get as much of that nailed as possible before the season started because there’s no gaps. Someone gets injured in the first game, they are out for three games, it’s so tight.

“A successful league for us would obviously be promotion, but trying to find out as much about the players as possible and as much as possible where we want to fall come the summer, and styles of play.”