BY CHRIS MCNULTY
NEIL Gallagher has emerged as a major injury concern for Donegal ahead of the Ulster final – after the big midfielder sustained an ankle injury in a club game at the weekend.
Gallagher was forced off just two minutes into Glenswilly’s All-County League Division 1 game against Kilcar on Saturday evening.
The player, widely considered as Donegal’s most consistent performer in 2012, is now in a serious race to be fit for the July 22nd clash with Down in Clones as Donegal go in search of back-to-back Ulster titles.
Donegal trained yesterday morning in Letterkenny and Gallagher was in attendance, but took no part. He was said to have spent the best part of the session with his ankle in ice and is on crutches to ease the pressure on the ankle.
“There is bad swelling on his ankle, so it’s hard to tell the exact extent of the injury at the moment,” said Donegal assistant manager Rory Gallagher yesterday afternoon.
“It does look like he has done some ligament damage, but really it’s a matter of watching this space over the next couple of days.”
The 31-year old midfielder had an X-ray in Letterkenny General Hospital after the game on Saturday evening where it was confirmed that he had not sustained any breaks.
Once the swelling goes down, the player will undergo a scan.
“It may not be as bad as it first seemed, so we’ll just keep our fingers crossed and hope for the best,” Rory Gallagher said.
“He will have a scan once it’s okay for the medical people to have a look at and we’ll take it from there.
“Ligament injuries are difficult by their nature.
“It’s disappointing for Neil because he had been going very well for us and has become a big player in the team.”
Gallagher had come back with a bang this year, having been out of favour for much of last year. He played every minute of Donegal’s National League campaign in 2012 and started at midfield in all three Ulster Championship games.
Last year, he only came into the team for his first championship start for the final against Derry – Gallagher the man to be elevated after an ankle injury forced Kevin Rafferty to sit out. Prior to that, Gallagher’s only Championship involvement in 2011 were 11 minutes as a sub against Cavan.
Now it seems as if Gallagher could suffer the same agony with just under two weeks to go until they cross swords with Down in the 2012 decider.
His injury comes just days after a plea by Donegal boss Jim McGuinness to the Donegal county committee led to the CCC calling off a planned round of club championship fixtures in the county for the weekend.
Martin O’Reilly did some light jogging in yesterday’s session at O’Donnell Park and while the medical men are said to be happy with his progress the MacCumhaills man still faces a fitness fight of his own.
O’Reilly sustained a hamstring injury last Sunday playing for MacCumhaills against Malin in the League.
Donegal’s other hamstring victims – Michael Murphy, Neil McGee, Ryan Bradley and Paddy McGrath – have not done full training, but the management is hopeful that they will return by the end of the week.
Down, meanwhile, are set to appeal the retrospective one-game ban handed to corner-back Conor Garvey following their semi-final win over Monaghan. They are set to take a case to the Central Appeals Committee after the Central Hearings Committee rejected an appeal last week.
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