BY CHRIS MCNULTY
A HAMSTRING strain sustained by Paddy McGrath playing for Ardara last Sunday is not as serious as first thought and the corner-back is exected to resume full training next week with Donegal’s other injured parties inching their respective ways back to full fitness.
There were fears for McGrath’s fitness when he was forced off in the late stages of Ardara’s All-County League clash with Termon and left Pearse Memorial Park with an ice pack strapped to his left hamstring.
Having been assessed by the Donegal medics on Monday morning, the injury is said to be ‘minor’ and will not be enough to prevent the player from playing in the Ulster final in two weeks’ time.
“The strength of it is good and we’d expect, at worst, for Paddy to be out for a week to ten days from when it happened,” Donegal manager Jim McGuinness confirmed to the Donegal News.
McGrath had just returned from a lengthy injury lay off to play in Donegal’s Championship encounters against Derry and Antrim. The player did not take part in Tuesday’s training session nor will he play for Ardara in Malin this weekend, but by the end of next week he is expected to have been reintegrated into the Donegal set-up.
Neil Gallagher returned to training on Tuesday night and McGuinness has set that the Glenswilly midfielder will be ‘picking it up in the coming days’. Gallagher was set to take a full part in Thursday’s session and Rory Kavanagh – who has missed both of Donegal’s Championship games this summer – is also nearing a return.
“They’re all moving well and we have nothing major on the injury front,” McGuinness said.
While youngsters Odhrán MacNiallais and Darach O’Connor picked up knocks in training on Tuesday, neither is in the doubtful bracket. MacNiallais, man of the match against Antrim in the Ulster semi-final, hurt an ankle while O’Connor, who hit the Saffrons for 1-2, sustained a hamstring injury.
McGuinness said of the duo: “They might be out for a few days, but it’s nothing to worry about; they’ll be fine. Things are very good.”
Donegal players will play for their clubs on Sunday in the League and will be with the county set-up for the next fortnight. McGuinness admitted his concern last Sunday when he learned of McGrath’s injury.
“It is worrying at the time, but that’s just the nature of it.
He said: “Once we get this weekend over us, we’ll have the full focus for two weeks. Because the other game has gone to a replay, you’ll find that the two weeks will go in fairly quickly. It’s a wee bit tighter in terms of the run-in.”
McGuinness will be at St Tiernach’s Park, Clones, this Sunday for the Ulster semi-final replay between Monaghan and Armagh, after those sides played out a draw in the first instalment last Saturday evening.
The Donegal manager said: “The replay gives us a chance to see our opponents for a second time. It’s much of a muchness. We have that advantage of seeing them again, but then again it means that our work on the opposition is pushed back a week. You have to be careful what you wish for sometimes.
“Things have been going well for ourselves lately so hopefully that continues and we can get all the boys up to speed before the final.”
Armagh snatched a draw when Rory Grugan converted a last-gasp free as Paul Grimley’s men made up a three-point deficit late in the game. This week, Armagh will welcome back Brendan Donaghy, Kieran Toner and Andy Mallon – all suspended for last week’s clash.
McGuinness said: “It was a very good game. I enjoyed it. There were a couple of dynamics at work: There was Monaghan, the Ulster champions, who were three points up; and then there was the whole thing about the Armagh players who were suspended and what that will do to them this week.”
DECLAN BONNER will look to collect the first piece of silverware from his second tenure in charge of Donegal.