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Paddy McGrath’s return the highlight for Donegal ahead of Division 2 final

Paddy McGrath

Paddy McGrath

BY CHRIS MCNULTY
NATIONAL League titles don’t arrive too often in these parts, so Jim McGuinness and Donegal are placing a big emphasis on Sunday’s Division 2 final against Monaghan at Croke Park (throw-in 2pm).
Donegal have only ever won two League titles – Division 1 in 2007 and Division 2 in 2011 – with Sunday’s final giving them an early-season tilt at silverware, a month out from their Ulster Championship opener with Derry at Celtic Park.
Derry will also be in action on Sunday, with Donegal-Monaghan the curtain raiser to the Division 1 final that sees Brian McIver’s in-form Derry face Dublin.
On Thursday evening the Donegal squad returned to Ireland having spent a week at a warm-weather training camp in the Algarve.
Most of the Donegal panel were back in action with their clubs at the weekend. While Donegal captain Michael Murphy didn’t tog out for Glenswilly, the groin injury which kept him to a watching brief is not said to be serious enough to render him a doubt for the weekend’s final.
Rory Kavanagh was outstanding for St Eunan’s in their twelve-point win over Glenswilly at Pairc Naomh Columba, where midfielder Neil Gallagher got a useful hour under his belt.
Odhrán MacNiallais hit 1-2 for Gaoth Dobhair in their win over St Michael’s, for whom Colm McFadden landed six points. Karl Lacey bagged three points for Four Masters in their away win at Malin, while Patrick McBrearty’s excellent recent form continued as he hit 1-5 for Kilcar in their impressive win over Naomh Conaill.
While Leo McLoone didn’t feature for the Glenties side, he too was said to have sat out as a precaution, with Ryan and Mark McHugh lining out for Kilcar and Anthony Thompson and Dermot Molloy playing for Naomh Conaill.
Perhaps the brightest note for Donegal fans this weekend was the long-awaited return to action of Paddy McGrath, who made his first appearance in eight months when he played the full game in Ardara’s win over Termon at the Burn Road.
Bugged by a groin complaint that has seen him out of action since last August, McGrath has had a frustrating time of it, but the signs were encouraging from the tenacious corner-back.
He put in a powerful shift that included a fine first half point, while he made two brilliant covering interceptions in the second half when Termon went in search of goals.
One of those saw McGrath make 20 yards to deny Christy Connaghan with a magnificent tackle that was reminiscent of the McGrath of old.
Sunday’s game will see Donegal attempt to annex the ghosts of their previous visit to headquarters when they were well beaten by Mayo in the All-Ireland quarter-final, with a score still to settle with Monaghan dating back to last year’s Ulster final defeat at the hands of Malachy O’Rourke’s side.
Declan Bonner’s Donegal minors also have a League final this weekend as they face Tyrone in the Ulster Minor League final following their semi-final win over Armagh on Saturday.

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