Donegal look set to be without Anthony Thompson this year, with doubts also still hanging over veteran midfielder Rory Kavanagh. Rory Gallagher confirmed after the McKenna Cup defeat by Derry evergreen wing-back Thompson is currently working abroad, while Kavanagh has not yet rejoined the squad.
While the new Donegal manager says he will “monitor the situation”, it appears the Naomh Conaill man will not be available for the foreseeable future. Anthony’s fairly clear cut, he’s working in the UK, himself and his girlfriend are both over there. We’ll just have to monitor the work situation.”
Kavanagh, who played a significant role in St. Eunan’s victory in the Donegal championship at the tail end of 2014, has been given an extended break, though it’s understood that the 32-year-old is unlikely to return.
“We’re waiting on Rory. He’s had a long club season and we left him off until January,” said Gallagher at Owenbeg yesterday.
The former Fermanagh forward also revealed Leo McLoone is taking an ‘extended break’, but confirmed the rest of the experienced men who had taken Tír Chonaill to last September’s All-Ireland final will return.
“Leo McLoone’s taking a bit of a break as well, but apart from that everyone’s back. The McGees are back, Neil Gallagher’s back, Colm McFadden, but they’re just all working their way back in different stages.”
As a result of those absences, Gallagher handed out four starting debuts against Derry and gave another three to substitutes. The relative experience of a Derry line-up that showed no debutants in the starting XV shone through.
Donegal had the breeze at their backs in the opening 35 minutes, but after a scrappy opening quarter, they had raised just two white flags.
Within the space of four minutes, the hosts hit an unanswered 1-3, with Emmett McGuckin’s goal capping an impressive performance. That put Derry into a 1-3 to 0-2 lead, though Donegal should have been ahead at the interval. They kicked 10 wides in the opening half and went in 1-5 to 0-5 behind despite also having dominated midfield.
Once former Donegal boss Brian McIver had arrested the midfield problem, the game became a non-contest. Only superb saves by Michael Boyle that denied Conor McAtamney and Liam McGoldrick, Derry would have won even more comfortably. The visitors, who welcomed back Mark McHugh for the opening 47 minutes, scored just twice from play as Derry, with captain Mark Lynch running the show, took control and cruised home.
DERRY: E McNicholl; O Duffy, N Holly, D Brown; K Johnston, J O’Kane, B Óg McAlary (0-1); M Lynch (0-4, 0-3f), C McAtamney (0-2); C McFaul, J Kearney (0-1f), E Lynn (0-1); D McKinless (0-1), E McGuckin (1-2), B McGoldrick.
Subs: L McGoldrick (0-1) for B McAlary (HT), D Heavron (0-1) for B McGoldrick (43), B Heron (0-1 45’) for Lynn (43), M Craig (0-1) for McAtamney (54), S Brady for McGuckin (62), J Bradley for Kearney (64).
DONEGAL: M Boyle; E Doherty, E Ward, C Parke; C Gallagher, M McHugh, C McGinley; M McElhinney, G McFadden (0- 2f); E Doherty, E McHugh, D Molloy (0-2, 0-1 45’); W Gillespie (0-1), H McFadden, M O’Reilly (0-3f).
Subs: J Gibbons for C Gallagher (37), R Melley for M McHugh (47), M McDermott for D Molloy (55).
Referee: C Branagan (Down).