Donegal boss Jim McGuinness will use the Dr McKenna Cup as a trial for the panel’s fringe members before the Allianz League.
Donegal open their Dr McKenna Cup campaign against holders Tyrone at home on Sunday, January 5, before facing Armagh and Queen’s University, Belfast.
Donegal have used the Dr McKenna Cup loosely in recent years with McGuinness winning just one of his first six matches in the competition — a 0-14 to 0-10 win over University of Ulster, Jordanstown, in 2011.
Last year, Donegal’s All-Ireland winning panel returned from Dubai for their end of season holiday to play a deferred first fixture against Fermanagh.
Maxi Curran, the Donegal U21 manager who was then video analyst with the seniors, was given the early season competition to prepare his panel for the Ulster U21 championship.
Donegal U21s eventually defeated Tyrone and Derry to reach the Ulster final, where they lost to Cavan 0-13 to 1-6. Curran, selector Rory Gallagher and kitman Francie Friel were removed from the Donegal senior set-up in September and all three currently work with the U21s.
“We’ll take it ourselves,” McGuinness said yesterday in reference to the seniors using the Dr McKenna Cup.
“We’re having a good long break now and that’s a very different dynamic to last year when we were only arriving back in the country after the McKenna Cup had started.”
McGuinness expects to be working off a playing panel of “36 or 37” for the Dr McKenna Cup.
“In regards players, we’ve an open door policy,” McGuinness added. “If a club wants us to take a look at any player we will. The McKenna Cup will provide good games.”
Come the start of the Allianz League, where Donegal open away to Laois in February, the priority will be slightly different to last year where Donegal were relegated from the top flight.
“We had a long season in 2012 so last year was just about trying to stay up,” McGuinness said.
“It was hard to keep going and although the approach to the league is not hugely different year on year, we are looking for traction and momentum.
“Last year our growth stumped and, as I said at the time, it was like managing a situation and not a football team. But now we’re looking forward to soon getting the ball rolling again and starting to build for the Championship.”
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