No surprises in Donegal side for league opener

Thirteen players who started last September's All-Ireland final win have been included in the Donegal team for tomorrow's Allianz Football League curtain raiser against Kildare at Croke Park (throw-5pm).

Reigning Footballer of the Year Karl Lacey and midfielder Neil Gallagher are absent due to their respective hip and groin injuries, but the remainder of that All-Ireland winning side returns for the start of the league campaign.

In the absence of Gallagher, Martin McElhinney from St. Michael's will partner Rory Kavanagh in midfield, while Malin's Declan Walsh has been chosen to deputise for Lacey in the half-back line.

Mark McHugh has shaken off a calf injury to be named in the half-forwards alongside Ryan Bradley and Leo McLoone. Team captain Michael Murphy will again take up the target man role in the Tir Chonaill attack.

Manager Jim McGuinness experimented during the recent Dr. McKenna Cup competition, however his big guns will resume this weekend as they look to secure the county's Division 1 status for another year - they finished sixth, just above regulation, last year.

“We need a minimum of six points in the league to survive which is our main objective for the league and anything after that is a bonus as we turn our attention to the championship and May 26th against Tyrone,” McGuinness told the Donegal Democrat.

“It is a very strong division this year - you have got Down, last year’s beaten semi-finalists. You have got Tyrone, Kerry, Cork and Dublin. Every single game will be tough.

"But that is where you want to be, playing with the big boys and we found that playing the top teams did help us going into the Championship."

DONEGAL (NFL v Kildare): Paul Durcan; Paddy McGrath, Neil McGee, Eamon McGee; Frank McGlynn, Declan Walsh, Anthony Thompson; Rory Kavanagh, Martin McElhinney; Mark McHugh, Leo McLoone, Ryan Bradley; Colm McFadden, Michael Murphy, Patrick McBrearty.

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