BY CIARAN WOODS
DONEGAL boss Hughie Molloy is lamenting the absence of two of his stars from opposite ends of the field ahead of this afternoon’s All-Ireland qualifier clash with Westmeath (Carrick-on-Shannon, 3.15pm, Live on TG4)
Goalkeeper Roisin McCafferty, Donegal’s captain this season, and chief score-getter Geraldine McLaughlin are in Spain as part of the Sligo IT team who are representing Ireland at the European Universities Futsal Championships, and will miss the county’s knockout clash with the Lakelanders at Carrick on Shannon this Saturday.
“They’re certainly going to be a big loss, but you certainly can’t fault them because they’re away on what is a once in a lifetime opportunity for them. They’re a big loss, but the challenge is there for others now to step forward and make a difference.
“Hopefully we can progress this weekend, make it through to the next round, when we will have everyone available and out there on the field for us.” the Donegal boss said.
Molloy admits that their preparations have been hampered due to other commitments and the simple difficulty of assembling a squad of players from across the county in the same place at the same time. He is content though with the work they have done, and believes that they should not be found wanting on Saturday afternoon.
“The club championships have gone ahead, as well as club league games, so the girls have been getting plenty of football.
“The only downside is that we wouldn’t have got doing all that much together, apart from a wee bit in training, so that’s a bit of a concern. We didn’t get any challenge matches or the likes because it’s just not easy getting girls all together at the one time.
“We’ve had a lot of changes, but I would definitely be very happy with the way the girls have performed all season. We have brought a lot of young players into the squad, seven or eight minors who have been juggling their commitments with their own championships, and although Monaghan beat us in the Ulster semi-final, we were a lot closer to them this time than we have been before.
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“The girls took quite a lot of confidence from that outing, and they know they are moving the right way.”
Westmeath posted a solid if unspectacular Divison Two league campaign before exiting the Leinster championship race by six points at the hands of Meath.
Molloy knows his girls are in for a battle if they are to take their place in the next round, and he is hoping that the many Donegal supporters who will descend on Carrick on Shannon for the mens’ senior qualifier will get there that little bit earlier to help his side towards the finish line.
“Westmeath I suppose are a bit like ourselves, operating on much the same level. There’s not going to be much in it.
“We’ve not really come across them, but what they do have are nine or ten very good players. The teams will be very evenly matched, and hunger will have a big part to play in it.
“I think it’s a big boost for us that there will be so many Donegal supporters filing in. You don’t get to play in front of too many big crowds, so if things are going middling well for us, then hopefully the large Donegal crowd can get behind us and give us that bit of a boost and help us to finish the job out.”
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