National Hurling League Division one
Donegal v Mayo
Saturday, Ballybofey, 7.15pm
Declan Bonner has outlined some of the changes that will be made to the Donegal squad for the National League.
Ahead of this weekend’s Round One National League Bonner explained that their long term injured players are Stephen McMenamin, Jason McGee, Oisin Gallen, Ciaran Gillespie, Paddy McGrath and Paul Durcan, who has undergone surgery
None of those players will see action in the league.
Patrick McBrearty is away on holiday at the moment and will miss the first weekend of action. But he will return next week.
Daire O Baoill is also injured and will be out for a number of games. He injured ankle ligaments and he will miss the first three or four games.
Bonner said: “We are just going through a wee run of injuries and they are all fairly serious injuries. They are not just soft tissue injuries where fellows will be back in a couple of weeks. It is what it is.
“Listen, we’re still going to have a strong squad out and I’m sure Mayo will have their own problems coming into the match.
“For me it is opportunities for young lads that are coming into the squad, and lads that have been about the squad to put their hand up.”
Ciaran Gillespie underwent surgery for ACL, as did Paddy McGrath and Conor O’Donnell.
“It is unfortunate but you can also look at it as opportunities for other guys to put their hand up,” Bonner said.
Neil McGee was expected to be rested for the league, but now that there have been that raft of injuries confirmed, things could change for the Gaoth Dobhair man.
“I am we bit reluctant to talk about it because we still have two more training sessions and we have six lads involved tomorrow night in the Sigerson Cup and we will see where we are after that.
“The lads have trained well but it is unfortunate that we have a number of injuries.”
During the McKenna Cup, Bonner hit the headlines as he had to pull his team out of the competition due to lack of availability of players. He had a large swathe playing Sigerson football and more who were ill.
But he is happy that his team will be ready for the first round of the league.
“I have a team ready to go with it but will that be the case come Saturday night.
“There are no guarantees and the way I look at it, there will be opportunities. Division one is very competitive. I am happy enough with what we have if we can avoid anything else.
“There will be new faces, no doubt. There are guys who are going to get serious game-time now. The serious stuff starts here.”
The serious stuff is the opener against Mayo.
James Horan’s team tend to do well in the league. Last year Mayo won five out of seven matches and reached the decider.
Bonner is expecting a test.
“It’s going to be a really competitive match against Mayo, and from our point of view, it’s a great challenge.
“Mayo will bring a big crowd and it’s important that we get people our and make MacCumhaill Park that fortress.
“It’s been a good venue but we need to make sure we get that crowd because we will have a young side.
“Division 1 is where you want to be and it’s important that we are back in there.”
Stephen Rochford remains part of Bonner’s back room team and he will have an insight into the Mayo team as he is a former manager.
Yet Bonner played down any advantage that might give Donegal.
“With the way it is now there are no surprises with the way you are going through video analysis all the time.
“We are more intent on getting our end of things right and getting the performance.”
Last year these two teams clashed in Castlebar in phase three of the Quarter-final group stages.
It is tempting to frame this game as an opportunity for revenge, but Bonner wasn’t having it.
“There will probably be a fair bit of change in personnel from both sides on Saturday evening.
“From our point of view, it is an opportunity to get two points on the board.
“That’s what we are going to MacCumhaill Park to get. It’s not going to be easy. It’s going to be a real battle.
“It will be physical and Mayo brought that physicality in Castlebar and they will bring it to Ballybofey on Saturday night and we have to be ready to stand up to that.”