BY CHRIS MCNULTY
KARL Lacey and Neil Gallagher have both now returned to full training – and the All-Star duo are set to play a part in Sunday’s Ulster SFC final against Monaghan (Clones, 4pm).
Lacey has only played minimal game time since the back end of last year.
A hip injury that he had surgery on in December kept him out until May. Restricted to a sub appearance against Tyrone, he missed the semi-final win over Down after sustaining a knee injury in a club championship outing with Four Masters.
Lacey took a full part in training last Tuesday and was joined by Gallagher’s return for the sessions on Thursday, Saturday and Sunday in Ballybofey.
Gallagher picked up a knee injury in Glenswilly’s championship win over Bundoran but he too is set to play a part in the final.
“The two boys have trained very well and they both took a full part in all of our games from Thursday night,” Donegal manager Jim McGuinness confirmed.
“They aren’t far away from a full 70 minutes, but we’ll assess them again during the week and that’s something we’ll have to gauge.
“They’ll definitely be seeing game time, though. We will weigh it all up this week when we meet. The two boys have put their best feet forward and have responded very well.”
The returns of four-time All-Star Lacey, the current Footballer of the Year and All-Star midfielder Gallagher represent serious boosts to Donegal’s bid for a third successive winning of the Anglo-Celt.
With the two back in action, Donegal will, aside from Matthew Smyth, have a full panel from which to select their frontline battlers.
McGuinness said: “We feel that our fitness levels, as a group, have moved on.
“We have got a clean run through of training together and that has been very beneficial to us. We have been in a position where we’ve been able to push it on.”
With temperatures soaring these days, conditions are likely to play an important part on Sunday when the already highly-charged atmosphere of Ulster final Sunday will be added to by temperaturs reaching around 28 degrees.
McGuinness said: “The key things now for us this week will be the boys getting plenty of rest and getting well hydrated – we want them all to be 100 per cent for Sunday.
“We have a savage challenge ahead of us next week. Monaghan are a big, strong side with a lot of talent.”
For Donegal, Sunday brings the possibility of a first-ever three-in-a-row Ulster success for the county.
McGuinness said: “It is a third Ulster final in a row for this group of players – to win it a third time would be unbelievable for them.