Tuesday 25 June 2019

This is the best Donegal squad in I've been a part of - McElhinney

Martin McElhinney says he “only trained maybe three or four weeks last year altogether. Photo: Sportsfile
Martin McElhinney says he “only trained maybe three or four weeks last year altogether. Photo: Sportsfile
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

Martin McElhinney is embarking on a 12th season with Donegal and feels he is now part of the strongest squad yet during that time.

Fresh from picking up a man-of-the-match award following Donegal's 10-point win over Down in Newry, McElhinney is determined to put in a big year having played so sparingly in 2018.

The St Michael's man played just three games last year because of injury - each against Tyrone in three different competitions - but with a move back home, having been based in Dublin for eight years, he feels he's in a stronger position to press on.

Declan Bonner estimated that up to 15 players were unavailable to them in Newry and that gives them a strong hand to return to Division 1 when the league resumes later this month.

Strength

Even factoring in their All-Ireland-winning squad in 2012 and the panel that just fell short two years later, McElhinney sees even greater strength in depth now.

"There's loads of competition this year, it's probably as strong a squad as I have been involved in," he said.

"There's still boys to come back in this week and next week. There's loads of opportunities there for fellas so it's just a matter of putting your hands up there and taking it when you get a chance," he added.

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Michael Murphy, Ryan McHugh, Paddy McBrearty, Eoghan Bán Gallagher, Frank McGlynn, Leo McLoone and up to seven Gaoth Dobhair players, including Neil McGee, have yet to return which fills McElhinney with such enthusiasm.

"There's no point in having a good squad though unless you're going to take it into the league. In years gone by, I might've ducked out of the McKenna Cup but it's good to get back in there and to get 60-70 minutes under my belt."

McElhinney, who never managed to tie down a permanent place under Jim McGuinness, having joined the senior squad in 2008, had a staggered year in 2018.

"I only trained maybe three or four weeks last year altogether. I got back in early this season and did a good pre-season. I played in three games in the whole of last year and they were all against Tyrone."

Working in Buncrana over the last year and based back in his home county on a permanent basis, he hopes to feel further benefit from the relocation in the months ahead.

"I moved back 18 months ago having been in Dublin there for eight years. You've home comforts and you don't have a big trek after training - having to get out of the car after three hours.

"It makes a big difference when you have to drive from Dublin and maybe (you're) stuck in traffic for an hour or so first and then landing in Convoy (Donegal Centre of Excellence) or wherever trying to do a hard training session. It takes you about an hour to even loosen out and then it's over half-an-hour later.

"We used to have four in the one car - it changed over time. We had Marty O'Reilly, Paul Durcan, Michael Murphy was there for a while but I was there all the time.

"Now you can go early and prepare. I always had an appetite for it and I wouldn't be travelling up and down from Dublin if I didn't have an appetite for it. I still enjoy it."

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