Derry could miss experienced trio for McKenna Cup opener

By Michael McMullan

DERRY could be without experienced trio Ciaran McFaul, Padraig Cassidy and Gareth McKinless for their opening game of the new season, manager Rory Gallagher has indicated.
The Oakleafers host Monaghan on Friday (7.45) in the McKenna Cup at Owenbeg, a repeat of his first game in charge two seasons ago.
McFaul picked up a knock in the early stages of Glen’s defeat to Kilcoo before Christmas.
“Ciaran and Tad (Padraig Cassidy), we are doing a bit of work on,” Gallagher admitted.
“Gareth McKinless, if he doesn’t play in the first one (v Monaghan), will play in the second one (v Fermanagh),” Gallagher said, while indicating Cassidy ‘may’ play against the Ernesiders.
Derry will be without their five Sleacht Néill hurlers who are preparing for the All-Ireland semi-final next month, while Steelstown duo Donncha Gilmore and Ben McCarron are on club duty in this weekend’s Ulster final against Moortown.
Gallagher – who confirmed to have everyone back from last year’s panel on board – has added three of the 2021 u-20 squad, namely goalkeeper Jack Scullion, Enda Downey and Aidan McCluskey.
Donncha Gilmore is joined by six of his All-Ireland minor winning team mates of 2020, Mark Doherty, Lachlan Murray, Eoin McEvoy, Dan Higgins, Calum and Matthew Downey.
Former Collingwood AFL player Anton Tohill is also on board, with Magherafelt’s Shane Heavron rejoining the panel, having started his last game, under Damian Barton, in Derry’s Ulster SFC preliminary round defeat in 2016.
“Shane has carried a knock in with us and he will be unavailable,” Gallagher added.
He also referenced having ‘a few’ lads doubtful due to circumstances relating to Covid-19.
“There have been panels more ravaged with it than us, so it is fingers crossed,” Gallagher said.
“You can’t plan…I am a Liverpool supporter and look at Premier League clubs, they can’t even plan. You just have to let nature take its course and play itself it out.
“Any county team, any sport in the country and the world has been affected by it, so we will have to wait and see.”

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