BY CHRIS MCNULTY
RYAN Bradley will be given a centrefield role on Sunday when Donegal take on Down in the Ulster Championship semi-final at Breffni Park, Cavan (throw-in, 2pm).
All-Star midfielder Neil Gallagher has been ruled out because of a knee injury and it will be Buncrana man Bradley who will man the engine room alongside Rory Kavanagh in a team that shows just one change from that which began the quarter-final against Tyrone four weeks ago. Fit again Mark McHugh returns in place of Gallagher with the rejigging of the personnel seeing Bradley drop back into the middle.
Bradley played at midfield in Donegal’s Ulster semi-final win against Tyrone and the subsequent final win against Down last year.
“Ryan’s natural position is probably midfield,” the Donegal assistant manager, Rory Gallagher, told the Donegal News.
“He played his best two games for us last year at midfield.
“They were two outstanding performances and he is very comfortable at midfield.”
Bradley’s selection in the middle third sees Martin McElhinney and Ross Wherity just edged out. McElhinney has been in fine form this year while Wherity made a goalscoring debut with his first touch of a championship ball against Tyrone. They, along with Dermot Molloy, Ryan McHugh and Martin O’Reilly are said to be pushing hard in training.
However, the side will run along expected lines with the 2012 Footballer of the Year, Karl Lacey, missing out on his first Championship match since the 2004 Ulster final because of a knee injury, ending his run of 41 consecutive SFC appearances.
Lacey is expected to be fit again by next weekend, although Gallagher’s recovery could take a fortnight.
Declan Walsh will again play in a half-back line that includes the fully-fit again Anthony Thompson and Frank McGlynn, while David Walsh is again given the nod in the half-forward line.
Down are expected to have Danny Hughes and Aidan Carr fit again while Ambrose Rogers is said to have played with no ill effects against Derry.
Sunday’s is a game that is of huge significance for a Donegal squad bidding to reach its third successive Ulster final.
“The prize on offer is huge,” manager Jim McGuinness told the Donegal News.
“It is a chance for us to go to a final. Whether it is an under 12 club game or a senior intercounty game, all players want to play in finals. This game gives us a chance of getting to one.”
Donegal (Ulster SFC v Down): Paul Durcan; Paddy McGrath, Neil McGee, Eamon McGee; Declan Walsh, Frank McGlynn, Anthony Thompson; Ryan Bradley, Rory Kavanagh; David Walsh, Leo McLoone, Mark McHugh; Patrick McBrearty, Michael Murphy, Colm McFadden.