McDonald has not played for the county since their exit from the All-Ireland championship and, as the season progressed further, it began to seem like he would not feature in 2006 at all.
However, a change in his employment circumstances has belatedly allowed him to link up with Mickey Moran’s panel. McDonald had been working on the Carna-Kilkieran water supply scheme in south Connemara, which required him to make a 250-mile round trip every day.
However, he is now based in Ballina, which is only a 25-mile trip to training. “Thankfully the long journeys to and from work are over so I can devote the proper time to the football,” he told a Mayo newspaper.
Having missed the entire pre-season and five rounds of the National League, McDonald will concentrate on rebuilding his fitness before lining out with the team. That will rule him out of Saturday’s game against Dublin for a start.
“I returned to training last week but I don’t feel I’m match fit at the moment. It’s going to take a little time but I’m delighted to be involved in the county scene again. I’ve been wearing the Mayo jersey since I was 13 years old and I’ve always tried to do my very best for the county.”
A quintet of All-Ireland winning stars - Donal Og Cusack, Wayne Sherlock, Brian Murphy, Tom Kenny and Timmy McCarthy - return to the Cork team for Sunday’s crucial Allianz NHL clash with Wexford at Wexford Park.
Galway have resisted the temptation to promote teenage sensation Joe Canning to their senior squad this year. The 17-year-old man-of-the-match in Portumna’s All-Ireland club victory over Newtownshandrum and recent winner of the Irish Examiner’s Youth Star award for hurling will instead concentrate on minor affairs this season.
Tipperary have made four changes from the side that beat Antrim for their tie with Galway at Semple Stadium, Thurles, on Sunday.
Paul Kelly, Ger O’Grady, John Devane and Shane McGrath replace Diarmuid Fitzgerald, John Carroll, Benny Dunne and Michael Webster.
Seanie McMahon is expected to return to the Clare team for their League game against Offaly at Cusack Park on Sunday.
Out with injury for the past month, the Clare captain returned to duty in a challenge game against Tipperary on Sunday last and suffered no ill-effects from his groin strain.
Kilkenny, who take on Antrim at Nowlan Park, will again be without Henry Shefflin, who is still recovering from a groin injury, but otherwise manager Brian Cody has a full squad to choose from.
Mark Vaughan of Kilmacud Crokes receives his call-up papers as Dublin attempt to bring Mayo’s unbeaten run to an end at Parnell Park on Saturday. Vaughan is named at right corner-forward in place of the injured Kevin Bonner and this is the only change from the side that lost by a point to Fermanagh last weekend.
Laois, who travel to Crossmaglen to take on Armagh, expect Ross Munnelly to be fit.
Down captain Benny Coulter has been ruled out of the remainder of the National Football League after breaking two bones in his hand during the course of last Sunday’s defeat by Armagh.
Coulter’s attacking colleague Eoin McCartain is doubtful for Sunday’s all northern clash with Derry. He suffered dizziness at half-time in the Armagh game after he was involved in an accidental collision.
The Cork football team to meet Fermanagh at Páirc Uí Rinn on Sunday won’t be announced until tomorrow night with several players undergoing fitness tests.
: D. Og Cusack; W. Sherlock, D. O’Sullivan, B. Murphy; R. Curran, J. Gardiner, C. O’Connor; T. Kenny, K. Murphy (Erins Own); T. McCarthy, C. McGann, R. Conway; J. Deane, B. Corcoran, K. Murphy (Sarsfields).
: B. Cummins; P. Curran, P. Maher, M. Ryan; E. Corcoran, C. O’Mahony, P. Kelly; L. England, C. Morrissey; S. McGrath, J. Devane, G. O’Grady; J. O’Brien, D. Fanning, D. Egan.
: S. Cluxton; P. Griffen, B. Cahill, D. Henry; P. Casey, C. Coggins, P. Andrews; D. MaGee, C. Whelan; D. Lally, T. Quinn, B. Cullen; M. Vaughan, C. Keaney, A. Brogan.