BY CHRIS MCNULTY
DONEGAL manager Jim McGuinness hopes to have a full compliment of players taking an active part in training by Thursday night as the preparations intensify for an Ulster final rematch with Monaghan in Clones on July 20.
By the end of the week, McGuinness expects to have welcomed Rory Kavanagh and Paddy McGrath into the fold, while a number of players who have been nursing minor knocks are also homing in on a return to action.
Kavanagh has yet to taste Championship action this summer. Having been suspended for the Derry game, he sat out the semi-final win over Antrim because of an abductor muscle injury. The St Eunan’s man will be integrated fully into training this week.
Corner-back McGrath picked up a hamstring strain whilst playing for Ardara against Termon last Sunday, but he, too, will take part this week and Neil Gallagher’s recovery will also go up a notch in the coming days.
Gallagher was withdrawn from the Antrim game early on, owing to a hamstring injury that has almost cleared up.
Kavanagh, McGrath nor Gallagher played for their clubs yesterday, while Colm McFadden and Michael Murphy didn’t feature for St Michael’s or Glenswilly in their respective games, although neither because of an injury that is concerning for the Donegal medics two weeks out from the Ulster final.
Odhrán MacNiallais picked up an ankle knock last Tuesday and didn’t play for Gaoth Dobhair yesterday, but he is expected back in training tomorrow night, as is Darach O’Connor, who has minor hamstring strain.
Neil McGee played for Gaoth Dobhair in their win over Glenswilly having been hampered by an ankle complaint of late, while no fresh injuries were reported from the weekend’s All-County League action.
McGuinness was in St Tiernach’s Park to watch Monaghan get the better of Armagh in the semi-final replay.
Armagh led through Aaron Findon’s early goal, but Monaghan were inspired by Conor McManus, whose 1-7 haul helped them to a 1-18 to 1-13 win.
“We wanted to put in a big performance,” said Monaghan manager Malachy O’Rourke, whose side deposed Donegal as Ulster kingpins twelve months ago and followed it up by winning the Divsion 2 League final in April at Croke Park.
“Donegal have a lot of hurt from last year, they probably have a lot of hurt from the league final as well.”
O’Rourke expects Donegal to roll up with their guns ablaze in a fortnight’s time.
He said: “I was very impressed with them against Derry, they shut out Derry completely. They seem to have a great hunger, a great workrate, they were very efficient again in the second half against Antrim so we know it is going to be a massive challenge.
“Donegal had a bit of an off-year last year but people forget that Donegal were All-Ireland champions two years ago, they won two Ulster finals, were beat in another and now they are back again. There is a serious pedigree there.”
DECLAN BONNER will look to collect the first piece of silverware from his second tenure in charge of Donegal.