BY CHRIS MCNULTY
KARL Lacey is expected to take part in his first full training session of the year with Donegal tonight, as the temperature begins to crank up with less than four weeks to go now until Tyrone are in Ballybofey for the Ulster Championship opener on May 26th.
Lacey, the 2012 Footballer of the Year, has not played a competitive game in six months, but the words uttered by the Donegal assistant manager Rory Gallagher will be music to the ears of Tir Chonaill supporters: “We expect Karl to be fit to play against Tyrone.”
Lacey would have been back in full action in training on Thursday or Saturday last, but the player was in Malta for the wedding of his sister, Nicola, to the former Donegal player, Barry Dunnion.
However, the quadruple All-Star is now set to inject a huge energy shot into the Donegal panel when he gets back to full swing tonight.
“This will be the first time we’ll integrate Karl back into a full session of ball work,” Gallagher said.
“He’ll have three weeks of full, hard training.
“He has been doing running and trying to build up his core fitness.”
While Lacey hasn’t featured for Donegal since the All-Ireland final win over May in September, there are no concerns about thrusting straight into the fire a player of his finesse and fitness levels.
“We feel that Karl Lacey is the best player in Ireland, so you do forego a certain amount when you factor that in.
“It is a bit of a concern that he hasn’t played any club football yet, but we expect him to be back in good nick.”
It is expected that Lacey will line out for Four Masters, his club, in the All-County League this weekend.
“We will encourage him to play for Four Masters,” Gallagher said.
Lacey had corrective surgery on a hip injury just before Christmas as well as a number of other procedures to remove some bone that had been grown on the ball and socket joint and to remove some floating bone from his cartilage.
It was a positive weekend on the injury news front for Donegal with David Walsh making his first competitive appearance of 2013 when he came on as a sub for the second half of Naomh Brid’s Division 3 game against Naomh Columba. His year up to now had been blighted by a shoulder injury, but he was integrated back into full training with Donegal last Tuesday night.
Neil Gallagher also made his return on Sunday, coming on early in the second half for Glenswilly, while Neil McGee also took a full part for Gaoth Dobhair until he was withdrawn late on with his team well in the lead.
Neither Eamon McGee or Mark McHugh played for their clubs, but ‘minor hamstring tears’ have been described by Gallagher as ‘nothing serious’, while Paddy McGrath is said to be ‘up to a fairly good level’ having got back to running again.
“Paddy is such an exceptionally fit guy, so we wouldn’t have much concerns about Paddy’s levels once he gets back to full pelt,” Gallagher said.