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Gallagher happy with Donegal options

By Declan Bogue

Three games into Donegal's Ulster Championship campaign, and with their bench still having contributed no scores, manager Rory Gallagher has defended his policy of making substitutes and the strength of his squad, especially in light of the return of Leo McLoone.

The Glenties man has been back at Donegal training for the last fortnight and will be in contention for a place in the squad for Sunday's Ulster final against Monaghan.

Gallagher revealed that he remained in contact with McLoone since taking over from Jim McGuinness, and explained: "Last November, I called 20 or 21 players who I felt didn't need to enter into a trial process. Leo indicated then that he was thinking of taking a break. He was half thinking of travelling, but then he got a post of permanent subbing (as a teacher). But he still felt he needed the break.

"We stayed in touch over the last couple of months and he has got the hunger back."

Donegal have not used their substitutes as frequently as other teams this summer, raising the suspicion that Gallagher is unconvinced of the quality outside of his starting XV.

However, he batted away such suggestions. He said: "Every manager does things differently. Rugby is quite an intense game and I don't see many substitutions made in it.

"We are very happy with our bench. If you look at the last day we had Anthony Thompson and Mark McHugh on it, both quality performers.

"We also have Hugh McFadden, who played seven National League games this year, Eamon Doherty and David Walsh.

"Obviously, Leo is going to come back into the equation now, Darach O'Connor is back and fit as well, so we are more than happy with our bench."

In contrast to Donegal, Monaghan manager Malachy O'Rourke has been in the happy habit of introducing substitutes such as Owen Duffy, Colin Walshe and Dick Clerkin in their wins over Cavan and Fermanagh, making important contributions and adding to the scoreboard.

"I think every manager looks at things differently. It's a great position for Malachy to be in," Gallagher reflected.

"This will be Paul Finlay, Dick Clerkin and Stephen Gollogly's fifth Ulster final; two against Tyrone. There is a huge amount of experience there and I think that's one of the qualities Malachy has brought; he has developed a good squad, developed younger players and has the opportunity to leave the experienced players on the bench.

"They have Ryan McAnespie, Kieran Duffy, Ryan Wylie and Karl O'Connell and have a huge amount of young blood."

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