Belfast Telegraph

Donegal set for an overhaul with retirements expected

By Declan Bogue

Over the past five seasons, Donegal have played 18 games in the Ulster Championship, losing only twice - both times against Monaghan in the final.

Since the arrival of Malachy O'Rourke, Monaghan have played nine matches in the last three years in Ulster, and only lost once - the 2014 decider against Donegal.

The duo have dominated their province, but the manner in which they lost their respective All-Ireland quarter-finals suggests that a period of transition may follow for both.

No team has shaped the Championship quite like Donegal, but in their case, the rebuilding work could be more extensive.

Last year, Rory Gallagher took over and was very careful not to race his men too hard over the winter, knowing they had lots of miles on the clock.

It was all geared towards a big push for Ulster and the All-Ireland this year, but now that both are gone, we can now guess at the likely retirements.

In the aged 30+ group are Colm Anthony McFadden, Eamon McGee, Christy Toye, Neil Gallagher, Paul Durcan and Karl Lacey.

Durcan has already informed management that he is off to Qatar for the year. Rory Gallagher is holding out hope that he will be back in time for the Championship, but at 31, it seems possible that Durcan may have played his last game for his county. If so, what a wonderful career it was and what a marvellous character.

Lacey has become increasingly injury-prone, and the 2012 Footballer of the Year no longer has the zip across the ground on the turn that he once had. The fact that he did not work this year suggests this was a last throw of the dice.

As for the rest, Toye, Neil Gallagher and McGee owe Donegal nothing, but perhaps two of the three can be convinced to stay, with Gallagher and McGee the most likely.

The hardest blow to absorb, though, would be a McFadden exit. What Donegal would give to keep him for another year.

They will be back in 2016, but will have a new identity. It happens.

Belfast Telegraph


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