Fate sometimes works in mysterious ways.
Mark Anthony McGinley’s elevation to the Donegal number 1 shirt certainly hasn’t been the convention, or expected, voyage.
But the Creeslough man is in a position where he looks like being the man in possession for some time.
When Paul Durcan decided to head off on his toes to Dubai in late 2015, Michael Boyle seemed like the heir apparent.
Boyle, though, ruptured a cruciate ligament. Having been second fiddle to Durcan for five years, Boyle’s big chance was blown by the injury.
McGinley had to wait for his debut.
While Durcan and Boyle were vying for the spot under Jim McGuinness, McGinley was carving out a League of Ireland career. He played for UCD and signed for Finn Harps in 2014, though he never played for Ollie Horgan’s side.
Just minutes before what was to be his first Donegal start, against Down in last year’s McKenna Cup, he picked up a quad injury, which side-lined him for three months.
Peter Boyle came in from the cold to play the early League games last year but since his debut, on his 26th birthday, against Dublin in Croke Park, McGinley hasn’t looked back.
“The boys are keeping me on my toes,” McGinley says, ahead of Sunday’s Allianz League game against Mayo in Castlebar, where the carrot of a League final dangles in front of Rory Gallagher’s team.
“We’re all training well. It’s good to have the lads breathing down my neck.”
McGinley was given the nod for the Championship last summer and became the first Championship debutant in 11 years – the first since Michael Boyle had played in 2005.
Now working under the guidance of new goalkeeping coach Paul Callaghan, following the departure of James Gallagher, McGinley feels he has grown into the role.
And despite a drastic landscape shift for Donegal in recent months, 2017 has started better than most would’ve anticipated.
McGinley says: “It’s not far away and that’s why I think it’s important that we get these tough matches in. A lot of them haven’t played senior championship.
“They might have played minor or under-21 but the seniors is a different animal. Most Ulster games are tight and it’s the most competitive province. That’s why we’re glad to get good, tough games in the League.
It’s a very different team from last year, but a lot of those young lads have been around training for a couple of years so we know them well.
“It’s a bit of a culture shock to lose the old lads – (Christy) Toye and (Colm) McFadden seemed to be about forever. The lads who have come in are doing well and it’s just about building them for the summer.”
There has been no love lost between Donegal and Mayo in recent years.
Donegal have already had to draw their swords of late, though, with intense tussles particularly against Cavan and Tyrone.
Mayo are in a peculiar scenario where they can reach the final and remain in danger of being relegated.
McGinley says: “It’ll be another tough game. They were in the All-Ireland final last year so we’re under no illusions. We’re going to their home patch and they won’t want to be beaten again at home.
“We’re focussing on performance. We’ll go to Mayo and try to work hard and get a performance and hopefully the result will follow.
“We’ve had a decent campaign up to now and we’ll be looking to extend that and push on for the Championship.”Tags: