Declan Bonner says his Donegal squad can’t get enough games as they bid to recover from a disappointing 2017.
Bonner succeeded Rory Gallagher as the manager and begins his tenure as the Donegal manager this evening with a McKenna Cup game against Queens University at Sean MacCumhaill Park (throw-in 8pm).
Having had a previous spell in the role from 1997 to 2000, the Lettermacaward man – who has managed Donegal at minor and U21 level in recent years – will have a largely experimental squad for the McKenna Cup.
Nathan Mullins is expected to make his Donegal senior debut tonight, the St Vincent’s midfielder having committed to Tir Chonaill for 2018, and Odhrán Mac Niallais will be back in the green and gold during the pre-season competition having opted out last year.
Killybegs’ Hugh McFadden will captain Donegal in the McKenna Cup, with skipper Michael Murphy among those who have been given an extended break.
“We always wanted to give Michael some time off and we’ll be looking at getting him back for the last four games of the League,” Bonner says.
“He’s coming off the back of a long season and he’s had no real break for the last few years. We want to see a fresh Michael Murphy when the summer comes around.”
Martin McElhinney is doing rehab work for an injury and will have a similar timescale for a return while Bonner had always planned to give Neil McGee and Frank McGlynn until the latter phase of the League.
The new manager has reported that Paddy McGrath is ahead of schedule for his return and is now likely to feature towards the end of the League.
Donegal begin their Ulster Championship quest on May 13th against Cavan.
Bonner says: “The Championship is what the whole thing is about and that’s what everything we do, even now in January and what we did in December, is geared towards. We have a lot of small steps to take before we get to that level.
“We have an early start in the Championship, but from now the games will be coming thick and fast.”
Patrick McBrearty, Ryan McHugh, Eoin McHugh, Mark McHugh, Stephen McBrearty and Ciaran McGinley from Donegal SFC winners Kilcar were given extra time off before getting back to county training.
The returned Leo McLoone is carrying a niggling injury and may not feature in the McKenna Cup while Jason McGee won’t be ready until the start of the League at the end of January.
With a number of players undergoing treatment, Bonner wouldn’t say no to a passage to the knockout phase of the McKenna Cup. On Sunday, they take on Monaghan in Clones before hosting Fermanagh next Wednesday in Ballybofey.
Bonner says: “Playing games beats any training.
“We have a huge amount done and we know we still have a huge amount to do. Games will bring the players and the squad on. The more game time we can get them, the better.
“The McKenna Cup is all about looking at players; let’s see who can take it on.
“We will need high numbers in the squad. We’ll have knocks and injuries along the way. We’re looking forward to the challenge ahead.”Tags: