Four players, including 2012 All Star Mark McHugh, quit the panel amidst speculation of a fall out with manager Jim McGuinness.
McHugh is believed to have informed McGuinness of his decision via text on Tuesday, while panellists Gary McFadden and Thomas McKinley, frustrated at a lack of game time this season, also left in the wake of Sunday’s Allianz Division 2 league final defeat to Monaghan.
The fourth player, Antoin McFadden, who is McGuinness’ brother-in-law, is understood to have quit last week and did not travel to Dublin with the squad for the final.
McElhinney has denied rumours of unrest within the squad and claimed the players walked rather than being pushed. “Playing inter-county football now there’s a lot of commitments and travelling and the boys who have left are at college and finishing exams,” he said.
“We understand and wish them luck. We’ll go to training tomorrow night and it probably won’t even be mentioned. It’s over now.
“There are no harsh feelings between us or the management or any of the boys, they just decided to leave of their own accord.
“That’s the way things go and we have put it behind us.”
It has been a bad few weeks for Jim McGuinness, who was heavily criticised for the cancellation a round of club fixtures over Easter and then presided over a very poor display against Monaghan.
With talk of senior players voicing their disapproval over the intensity and number of training sessions during a recent training camp in Portugal, and in the week leading up to the league final, the Donegal boss is under scrutiny. McElhinney denied morale has been dented ahead of the Ulster championship quarter-final with Derry in three weeks’ time.
“No it hasn’t,” he insisted.
“At the end of every league campaign there are players who are dropped or leave the panel, but these players decided to leave and that’s the way it goes.
“In fairness, in Donegal we are very close and every man is best friends with each other. You take these things on the chin and you move forward. Derry is our main focus now.”
McElhinney thinks the door has been left open to the players.
When asked if he expected to see them return this year, the St Michael’s man said: “I’m not too sure if we will or not, but I’m sure the door is always open to the boys to come back in.
“They are all valuable members of our squad and, if they wanted to come back, I’m sure they could have words with Jim.
“I don’t think there’d be any problem with that.”