Belfast Telegraph

Friday 21 November 2014

Canavan has no option but to shuffle Fermanagh's pack

Daniel Kille of Fermanagh (left) could be back on Sunday but the game comes too soon for Gearoid McKiernan
Daniel Kille of Fermanagh (left) could be back on Sunday but the game comes too soon for Gearoid McKiernan

When Donegal boss Jim McGuinness initially named his side for last month's Ulster Championship quarter-final against Tyrone, it was precisely the same line-up that blazed to All-Ireland glory at Mayo's expense last September.

Prior to the throw-in, though, Mark McHugh and Karl Lacey were ruled out but both were drafted in as substitutes during the course of the tie.

In contrast to Donegal's stable formation, virtually every other Ulster side has undergone a transformation of sorts in the championship to date thus underlining the huge turnover of players within the inter-county sphere right now.

Antrim indeed were missing no fewer than eight players from the starting XV that commenced against Monaghan last year when the sides renewed their rivalry at Casement Park last Sunday.

Tony Scullion, James Loughrey, Michael McCann, Aodhan Gallagher, Conor Murray, Mark McAleese, Michael Magill and Tomas McCann were all conspicuous by their absence for new manager Frank Dawson's championship debut.

And Monaghan manager Malachy O'Rourke had seven new faces on board from the 2012 series while Derry boss Brian McIver paraded a similar number the previous week against Down.

Tyrone too showed six changes in personnel against Donegal while Armagh manager Paul Grimley had seven alterations to his line-up for the defeat to Cavan from the side that lost to Tyrone at the first hurdle in Ulster last year. Changes of course are inevitable in county squads but the increase in emigration, the effects of the recession, the number of long-term injury victims in the province as a whole and the ferocious commitment required from players at this level all go a considerable way to explaining the sharp increase in playing personnel turnover.

Fermanagh manager Peter Canavan is resigned to missing players such as Anthony McGuinness, Barry Mulrone and Daryl Keenan for Sunday's game against Cavan and laments the fact that in all 11 players have been unavailable to him lately, including for the closing stages of the league.

"It seems we have had an inordinate number of injuries. No sooner do we get one player back that we lose another," says Canavan.

But the Tyrone legend can take comfort from the fact that Eoin Donnelly, Daniel Kille, Ryan McCluskey, Conor Quigley, James Sherry, Sean Quigley and Niall Bogue should now all be in contention for places against the upbeat Breffni side.

Unlike other managers, Cavan boss Terry Hyland has not been overtaken by injury worries although the loss of Gearoid McKiernan continues to be felt.

Jack Brady, who was forced to pull out of the team to meet Armagh at the 11th hour, returns for Sunday's visit to Brewster Park Enniskillen with Killian Brady dropping out.

As has been the case in the championship to date, the strength of the Cavan and Fermanagh benches will certainly be put to the test as Sunday's game unfolds.

Cavan: C Gilsenan; J McLoughlin, R Dunne, K Clarke; J McEnroe, A Clarke, R Flanagan; D O'Reilly, D Givney; C Mackey, J Brady, F Flanagan, N McDermott, M Dunne, E Keating.

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