A NUMBER of new faces are expected to see action when John Brennan begins his reign as Oak Leaf boss with a Dr. McKenna Cup, Section B opener against Monaghan at Celtic Park this Sunday. (Throw-in 2.00 p.m.)
A larger than usual crowd is expected to attend as acquaintances are renewed with the Farney County against whom Derry have enjoyed some high-octane Championship clashes over recent seasons.
Brennan’s first team selection is expected to include a mixture of experience and potential with two former All-Stars set for a return to county colours. Both Kevin McCloy and Paddy Bradley have featured prominently in practise games and should line out against Monaghan.
Bradley quit the county scene last season after a dispute with then county manager, Damian Cassidy, but the new boss made no secret of his desire to see the prolific Glenullin forward reverse that decision.
McCloy has had a tough time with injury over the past couple of seasons but with Brennan believed to have called time on Kevin McGuckin’s Derry career, the Lavey man will lend some much needed experience to an experimental defence.
With Fergal Doherty not making himself available, there is expected to be an opportunity for Niall Holly, who should be one of a number of faces from County champions Eoghan Rua. The tall midfielder was one of the players of the Championship last season and will be given the chance to fill the considerable void left by Doherty.
Other Coleraine players expected to feature are the three McGoldrick brothers Barry, Sean Leo and Ciaran, Ciaran Mullan and Declan Mullan though not all will start this Sunday.
Newbridge’s Michael Bateson returns after an injury which ruled him out of most of 2010, while Enda Muldoon has also opted to continue his inter-county career. Michael Drumm’s fine form in the 2010 Club Championship has also been rewarded with a recall.
Players such as Ballinascreen keeper Danny Devlin, Swatragh’s Michael Friel, Loup’s Aidan McAlynn, Greenlough’s Brian McCallion, Castledawson’s Niall McNicholl and Ruairi Shivers and Craigbane’s Lee Moore have all been given a chance to stake a claim for inclusion in the National League panel although it is believed former Kildare star, Declan Brennan, has not been added to the panel at this point despite reports to the contrary.
Brennan, who is based at the University of Ulster in Coleraine, has already transferred clubs from his native Rathangan to Ballinascreen, but despite featuring in practicse games, he will not feature this weekend.
New Monaghan boss, Eamonn McEneaney, has been dealt two significant blows ahead of the new season with the news that two key players will miss, not just the McKenna Cup but also the Allianz Football League, through injury.
Goalkeeper Shane Duffy and attacker Stephen Gollogly will be sidelined for up to four months having had hip operations. The pair join a further eight members of the 2010 Championship panel who are currently injured or recovering from surgery.
Among those unavailable for the start of the 2011 campaign are - Conor McManus, Vinny Corey, Eoin Lennon, John Paul Mone and Kieran Hughes.
The full Derry panel is - Michael Bateson (Driochead Nua), Paddy Bradley (Gleann An Iolair), Michael Conlon (Baile An Doire), James Conwayy (Baile An Doire), Danny Devlin (Baile Na Scríne), Michael Drumm (Leamhthaigh), Michael Friel (An Suaitreach), Conleth Gilligan (Baile An Doire), Niall Holly (Cúil Raithin), Mark Lynch (Beannchar), Brian Og McAlary (Cill Ria), Aidan McAlynn (An Lúb), Dermot McBride (Baile Na Scríne), Brian McCallion (Grianloch), P. J. McCloskey (Beannchar), Kevin McCloy (Leamhthaigh), Barry McGoldrick, Ciaran McGoldrick, Sean Leo McGoldrick (all Cúil Raithin), Niall McNicholl (An Séan Mhullach), Lee Moore (Carraig Bhan), Enda Muldoon (Baile An Doire), Ciaran Mullan (Cúil Raithin), Declan Mullan (Cúil Raithin), Gerard O Kane (Gleann An Iolair), Ruairi Shivers (An Séan Mhullach).
Meanwhile, the Ulster Board have announced new ‘family friendly’ pricing structures for the tournament. Under-16 entry to all McKenna Cup matches will now be free of charge while supporters with a disability will also receive free entry and are asked to apply to the county committee for access. There are also plans to introduce a student concessionary rate in 2011 (a valid in-date student card must be shown at the stiles for this to be applicable).
General admission will be €10/£9 while the concessionary rate is €5/£5, for students and OAPs.