Sport Gaelic Football

Wednesday 21 February 2018

McGuinness hits backin McElhinney DCU fallout

Donegal boss claims ‘tail is wagging dog’ after challenge call-up sparks college v county row

Jim McGuinness
Jim McGuinness
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

JIM McGuinness has hit back at claims by DCU boss Niall Moyna that he mistreated a Donegal player by insisting that he turned up for a challenge game last Saturday.

"It's pure nonsense. We weren't the ones who switched dates -- that happened when the O'Byrne Cup semi-final was brought forward from Sunday to Saturday," said McGuinness.

The very public row erupted after Moyna (right) criticised McGuinness for summoning Martin McElhinney to a challenge game against Monaghan in Clones last Saturday.

McElhinney is also a member of the DCU squad which has reached the O'Byrne Cup final and which will shortly be in action in the Sigerson Cup.

McElhinney injured his ankle in the warm-up for the challenge game and was unable to play for Donegal or for DCU against Meath in the O'Byrne Cup semi-final on Saturday night.

McGuinness said the O'Byrne Cup game was originally scheduled for the Sunday before being brought forward to the previous night.

"I met the Donegal squad in the first week in January and put up a spreadsheet of all the dates," he said.

"We had looked at the schedules for the McKenna Cup, O'Byrne Cup and FBD Leagues and worked our own plans around them.

"Because of the involvement of colleges players in those competitions, we were anxious to avoid any clash and at that stage, last Saturday was free. Later on, the Meath-DCU O'Byrne Cup semi-final was brought forward, so what were we to do?

"The tail is wagging the dog in relation to the college-county scene at present, with the imbalance very much in favour of the colleges.

"The colleges have the players from October, while the county managers don't get them until January 1.

"Counties are asked to play without the college players in January, which means the counties have very few days when they can get their full squad together for a National League that starts on the first week in February."

The Donegal manager is annoyed by Moyna's assertion that his actions amounted to "abuse of players", pointing out that if McElhinney hadn't been with Donegal on Saturday, he would have played with DCU against Meath that night.

"My relationship with Martin McElhinney goes back a long way.

"We live only a kilometre apart -- and it's most unfair that he has been dragged into this," McGuinness added.

"I, personally, and our support team have invested heavily in Martin because we believe he has the potential to be a very good Donegal player. To think that I would threaten to throw him off the panel for not coming to a challenge game is ridiculous."

McElhinney had been troubled by injury problems for 18 months but has rebuilt his career. McGuinness said that as part of that process, McElhinney had regularly met one of Donegal's strength and conditioning coaches on a one-to-one basis.

Moyna had complained that it was unfair to summon McElhinney for a challenge game as he was in the middle of his exams and had been given some time off from the O'Byrne Cup preparations.

"He (Moyna) is criticising us for having Martin in Clones during his exams but, on the other hand, he is saying he would have been playing in Navan that night if he hadn't been with Donegal earlier on. It's nonsense really," McGuinness went on.

He also questioned the wisdom of counties entering pre-season competitions like the McKenna Cup when many of their players are college-tied.

"How can you get a team ready for the National League when you have so few available dates to get your squad together in January?

"We have very important league games against Down and Laois on the first two weekends in February, but we have had very little chance to get our full squad together.

"And when we try to do it on a day which was supposed to be free, we're criticised because an O'Byrne Cup semi-final date was changed.

"That's the issue here, whatever Niall Moyna claims."

Irish Independent

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