BY CHRIS MCNULTY
KARL Lacey has been declared fit to face Kerry in Sunday’s All-Ireland quarter-final (Croke Park, 4pm).
The triple All-Star had been at the centre of a fitness scare after it emerged that he hasn’t trained since the Ulster final win over Down.
Last Sunday in Convoy, Jim McGuinness said that the Four Masters man was a player he wanted to ‘keep in cotton wool’ and yesterday assistant manager Rory Gallagher allayed fears that Lacey’s place could be in danger.
“Karl is fit for the weekend, it was just an impact he took to his back late in the Down game,” said Gallagher.
“He has some internal bruising, but it’s nothing that will keep him out of the game at the weekend. It’s more precautionary that he hasn’t trained, Karl is obviously a player that we need to have playing.”
Neil Gallagher has yet to train at full pelt and the big Glenswilly man is unlikely to feature from the off on Sunday. Management have said that he ‘has a chance’ but it’s expected that he will be kept in reserve.
David Walsh has recovered from the hamstring injury that prematurely ended his Ulster final, while Martin O’Reilly has been reported to have made ‘good progress’ and has been integrated back into full training again.
Eamon McGee missed the Clones clash, also due to a hamstring injury, but he is also fit again. McGee trained with his club, Gaoth Dobhair, on Monday night and is back in the frame for a starting berth.
It seems plausible that McGee could be fired back into the Donegal starting XV on Sunday and it would not be a complete surprise were one of the front six to make way for the 6’2” Gaoth Dobhair defender, whose frame would come in useful against Kerry’s star-studded attack.
Martin McElhinney must also be close to a start after impressing off the bench in the Ulster final – and the St Michael’s man is another who fits the frame for Sunday.
Donegal are underdogs for the game, a rare occurrence these days, but the mood in Tir Chonaill is upbeat ahead of what is a first ever meeting of the counties in senior championship football.
“We will go up the road very positive and we will focus on our own performance and getting that right,” McGuinness told the Donegal News this week.
“We will try to use the atmosphere and use the occasion to get the best out of the players and get their best feet forward. We have to stay focussed.”
Donegal v Kerry is the fourth quarter-final, and will be preceded by the meeting of Cork and Kildare at 2pm. On Saturday, Mayo take on Down before Dublin host Laois.
On Sunday, up to 20,000 Donegal fans are expected to make their way to GAA headquarters for the big clash of the last eight. It’s a tie that has gripped the county and the Tir Chonaill attendance will not be far off the 20,000 mark. Yesterday, the County Board had shipped in the region of 7,500, but with sales from other sources GAA chiefs in the county predicted that in excess of 15,000, and pushing close to 20,000, would make the trip.
With both counties usually donning green and gold, there will be a change of strip for both on Sunday: Donegal will be in white and Kerry will wear blue.