BY CHRIS MCNULTY
JIM McGuinness remains hopeful on the prospects of Donegal captain Michael Murphy and Leo McLoone being able to face Monaghan in Sunday’s Division 2 final at Croke Park (throw-in 2pm).
Both players are suffering from minor injuries (Murphy a groin strain and McLoone a calf injury) which prevented them from taking a full part in Tuesday’s training session. Neither player lined out for their respective clubs in Sunday’s All-County League matches, but McGuinness is planning to include them in his selection to take on Ulster champions Monaghan.
“Both worked hard on their rehabilitation on Tuesday night and I think they’ll both be integrated fully for Thursday night or certainly in time for the weekend,” the Donegal boss told the Donegal News.
David Walsh is struggling because of a quad injury that forced him out of Naomh Brid’s Division 3 game against Naomh Columba on Sunday and is Donegal’s main injury concern.
Patrick McBrearty and Ryan McHugh will definitely be included in the Donegal team, while Christy Toye is expected to be fine, having sat out St Michael’s game against Gaoth Dobhair owing to a hamstring complaint.
McBrearty and McHugh will be the big beneficiaries as Donegal go in search of silverware.
“Both will be in on merit. They have been showing good form,” McGuinness said.
“They had a good spell with the Under-21s. Even before that, they were playing really well. Ryan has been in good form and Patrick has been making an impact too. It’s been stop-start for Patrick, but hopefully now we can give Patrick a good, clear run at it.”
It seems as if Dermot Molloy and Neil Gallagher are the most vulnerable with Martin McElhinney likely to get the nod to line out alongside Rory Kavanagh at midfield while McBrearty’s inclusion will renew the Murphy-McBrearty-Colm McFadden front line that won the All-Ireland in 2012.
McGuinness welcomed Paddy McGrath’s return to competitive action last weekend, the Ardara man coming through the sixty minutes of his club’s game against Termon on Sunday.
Sunday ‘may come too soon’, McGuinness said, although he was delighted to have McGrath back playing.
He said: “It’s absolutely great to see Paddy back in action again. He had a dreadful time of it and it has been a delicate process to get him back into the swing of things again. He now has done ten to twelve sessions back-to-back without any reactions. He played in training games during the week away as well and came through those very well.”
Sunday is Donegal’s first visit to Croke Park since last year’s All-Ireland quarter-final loss to Mayo and sees Donegal class with Monaghan who defeated them in the Ulster final last July.
McGuinness said: “This will be a tough battle. Monaghan will bring absolutely everything to the table. It would be fantastic to go to Croke Park and win a trophy.”