Donegal boss optimistic about growing injury list as he targets returns for Mayo clash
WHILE DONEGAL MANAGER Declan Bonner was reluctant to talk about injuries after his side’s thrilling Super 8s draw with Kerry yesterday, it was something that couldn’t be ignored.
The back-to-back Ulster champions were dealt a hammer blow last week when star defender Eoghan Bán Gallagher suffered a broken ankle in training.
There was further worrying news when Neil McGee was withdrawn from the starting team before throw-in yesterday, with Paddy McGrath also sidelined with a knock that kept him out of their Super 8s opener against Meath.
While Donegal have talked up as the main pretenders to Dublin’s throne after their fine form this summer, their injury list in defence is undoubtedly a significant worry.
“Listen we lost basically our full-back line,” Bonner said afterwards. “But the lads who came in done really well.
“Odhran McFadden-Ferry was really good, Caolan Ward and Stephen McMenamin and we got to grips with David Clifford. I thought they really battled, gave it their all and left it all out on the pitch.”
While he refused to comment on McGee’s injury and late withdrawal, Bonner said that he’s optimistic that the Gaoth Dobhair ace and McGrath will be back for their final day showdown with Mayo in two weeks’ time.
“We’d hope so,” he said. “The only certainty is that Eoghan Bán won’t be back.
That’s a huge loss to us to be quite honest, he picked up a bad injury during the week at training and he’ll miss the rest of the season. But yeah, the rest of them should.
With Jason McGee going off in the 23rd minute, Hugh McFadden in the 38th and a few other players to keep an eye on, Bonner was largely optimistic about the worsening injury situation.
“There are a lot of ice packs inside,” he pointed out. “I just spoke to them briefly, there are a lot of knocks and a lot of bruises but we just have to wait until the next 24 hours to see where it’s at.
It is not ideal but it is what it is. There has always been injuries, there has always been knocks and there are a few to look at and assess everyone tomorrow morning.
He added: “We were [down a lot of key men], but we have belief within that squad.
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Bonner with Jamie Brennan after yesterday’s game.
Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO
“Lads got game time there that hadn’t got game time in the championship this year, so from our point of view it’s pleasing as a group that they were fit to go in there and do a job for us and we never had any doubt.
“We’ll need all the experience we have going to Castlebar, so hopefully the lads will all be okay.”
Two players in particular that really stood up and shone on the big stage were Michael Murphy — who finished up with 1-7 — and the ever-impressive Ryan McHugh.
“Ah look they have been outstanding,” Bonner agreed. “They are leaders on and off the park and they bring everyone with them.
For me, it was about the whole group and they really stuck in there. It may not have happened but for one or two players and the guys coming off the bench. They all did their job today.
On injuries, Peter Keane also shed some light — but not a whole pile — on David Moran’s late withdrawal.
One of the stars of the show in Killarney against Mayo last weekend, the midfielder was also a late change before the game but Keane is hopeful to have him back for their final-round meeting against Mayo.
“He got a bit of a bang last weekend,” the Kingdom native noted, adding that it’s a foot injury.
“We’re confident he’ll be fine for Meath. You lost Gavin White then on top of it, throw in Jack Barry (ankle) as well. You’re a few bodies down, but we’re hopeful that we’ll be at full tilt.”
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