BY CHRIS MCNULTY
KARL Lacey will make his first Donegal start in ten months in Sunday’s Ulster final against Monaghan in Clones (throw-in, 4pm).
The 2012 Footballer of the Year, Lacey will line out at centre-back at St Tiernach’s Park, Clones with his inclusion the only change to the side from that which defeated Down in the semi-final. Malin’s Declan Walsh is the unlucky man to miss out.
The Four Masters man had been out of action since having hip surgery in December, but having taken a full part in Donegal’s last five training sessions, he is now set to take to the field for a first Tir Chonaill star in 43 weeks.
“It’s a huge lift to us,” McGuinness said tonight at a Club Tir Chonaill function in Letterkenny’s Mount Errigal Hotel.
The starting XV on Sunday does not include the name of Neil Gallagher, with the Glenswilly man’s rehabilitation from a knee injury falling just short of a berth in the engine room having suffered a couple of minor set-backs. Despite being held in reserve, the All-Star midfielder is tipped to get a fair slice of game time. With Gallagher absent, Ryan Bradley will again be given the nod at centrefield alongside Rory Kavanagh.
Gallagher missed last year’s final win over Down because of an ankle injury, but should get in on the act at some stage on Sunday.
McGuinness believes Monaghan will present his team with a stern test to their three-in-row Ulster bid.
McGuinness said: “We are on red alert.
“It will be a very tough battle. Hopefully the team we have put out will be strong enough to do the business.
“They look the sharpest they have since the All-Ireland final. If we are beaten on Sunday it won’t be fitness or preparation that will let us down.”
One man who will be chomping at the bit on Sunday is Eamon McGee. The Gaoth Dobhair defender has two Ulster medals to his name, but played no part in the finals in 2011 or 2012. McGee played in losing finals in 2004 and 2006, but will hope to etch a memorable chapter in his tale on Sunday by playing a part in Donegal’s quest for a third successive winning of the Anglo-Celt.
DECLAN BONNER will look to collect the first piece of silverware from his second tenure in charge of Donegal.