Belfast Telegraph

Friday 1 August 2014

McGuinness waiting for injured Donegal stars

Normally a team manager prefers to whisk his side away from their home base in order to fine-tune preparations for a major championship assignment.

But, as indeed in other areas of his brief, Donegal boss Jim McGuinness tends to do things rather differently.

Rather than log up hundreds of miles in the pursuit of solitude in an out of the way destination, McGuinness quietly transported his side to the Redcastle Hotel on the Inishowen peninsula in north Donegal to formulate strategy and further fire up his players for Sunday’s Croke Park showdown with Cork.

And while it is common knowledge that his side is likely to bear a strong resemblance to the line-up that overcame Kerry at the semi-final stage, McGuinness has concerns over the fitness of utility player Martin McElhinney.

The St Michael’s clubman started at wing-forward against Cavan in the preliminary round of the Ulster Championship but by the time the Ulster final against Down came round he had acquired the reputation of super sub.

It was an inspirational performance against Tyrone in the semi-final after coming on at half-time that underpinned McEnhinney’s value to the side. Yet rather than keep him on the bench for the semi-final against Kerry, McGuinness plunged him into his line-up at the eleventh-hour for David Walsh.

However, it did not turn out to be a particularly good day at the office for McElhinney and he was substituted by Neil Gallagher at half-time.

Gallagher now looks certain to start against Cork given his experience and physical attributes but McElhinney can reasonably expect game time from the bench providing he satisfies McGuinness in relation to his fitness.

“We have one or two wee niggles, nothing more than that,” reveals McGuinness.

It is known that the hard-working McElhinney’s training has been disrupted somewhat but the expectation is that he will be available to come on from the bench against Conor Counihan’s side.

“This is a match in which the use of substitutes could be very important indeed and we want to have everyone available to us,” stresses McGuinness.

His squad heard motivational rhetoric in Redcastle and at the same time they honed their fitness in idyllic surroundings.

“The mood within the squad just could not be better. They know that they are within reach of a place in the All-Ireland final and what we want now is a display that will get us over the line. This match is a big step up for us and it’s essential that we get off to a good start because Cork are the strongest side we will have encountered this summer without a doubt,” states McGuinness.

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