BY CHRIS MCNULTY
DONEGAL’S round four qualifier against Laois has been confirmed for Pairc Sean MacDiarmada in Carrick-on-Shannon on Saturday evening next, July 22nd, at 5pm.
After yesterday’s crushing six-point defeat by Monaghan in the Ulster final, Donegal face the dreaded six-day turnaround. Only two teams have ever recovered with a six-day turnaround to win their next game: Dublin in 2001 against Sligo and Down last year again Tipperary.
Donegal look set to be without Mark McHugh, who spent last night in Letterkenny General Hospital after being forced off through a combination of concussion and a dead leg in the tenth minute following a clash with Stephen Gollogly.
McHugh travelled home with the team, but was sent to Letterkenny as a precaution by the team doctor, Mr Kevin Moran, though a turnaround to enable him to play on Saturday now seems ambitious with the Kilcar man also to be kept in hospital tonight.
Saturday’s will be a first ever Championship meeting of Donegal and Laois in what will be Donegal’s 206th game in Championship football.
Ross Munnelly hit eight points on Saturday evening as Laois scored a 0-16 to 2-8 win away to Wexford.
Justin McNulty’s team are familiar opponents to Jim McGuinness and Donegal. In 2011, Donegal lost in Portlaoise in Division 2, but defeated Laois in the Division 2 final at Croke Park for the first trophy of McGuinness’s tenure.
There was also a forgettable afternoon in Letterkenny last year when Laois won a Division 1 game between the teams.
It will be Donegal’s first game in Carrick-on-Shannon since 2007, when Michael Murphy made a goalscoring debut in an extra-time 1-16 to 1-14 qualifier win.
Carrick-on-Shannon was also the venue in 1982 when Donegal won their first All-Ireland title in 1982, in the U21 final against Roscommon.
Like most other grounds, Pairc Sean MacDiarmada has had its capacity slashed through the Slattery Report, with almost a third of its capacity removed. The compact ground has been taken from 15,000 to just 9,331, which could make for another ticket scramble in the next few days. Ticketing arrangements will be confirmed later.