BY CHRIS MCNULTY
DONEGAL ended a five-day training camp in Johnstown House, County Meath, yesterday with a clean bill of health ahead of Sunday’s All-Ireland SFC semi-final against Dublin in Croke Park (throw-in 3.30pm).
A capacity crowd is expected at GAA headquarters for what is a repeat of the 2011 semi-final between the counties. Reigning Sam Maguire holders Dublin have stormed to the last four without taking a flinch.
With a fully-fit squad to hand, Jim McGuinness will leave Donegal on Saturday confident of upsetting those lopsided bookmakers’ odds that have Dublin the roaring 1/7 favourites.
Donegal had a five-day camp at their usual big-game base in Enfield and the camp was reporting ‘no worries’ last night.
Leo McLoone had a trouble with a back spasm during the week, but there are not said to be any concern about the Naomh Conaill man’s fitness.
Christy Toye had missed St Michael’s game against Four Masters in the All-County League last weekend, but he was said to have been ‘at full tilt’ during the camp.
Donegal will train again on Wednesday night and, six days out from the game, have no-one on the list for the medics.
McGuinness is seeking to guide Donegal to a second All-Ireland final in three seasons and believes he has the players to get over the line against Jim Gavin’s Dubs.
Asked if Donegal could present a ‘scare’ to Dublin at the recent press event, McGuinness appeared insulted.
“If that’s the height of our expectations then there is no point going to Dublin,” the Glenties man said.
“From my point of view, any game I’ve ever been involved in I’ve felt we could win the game. We go to Croke Park believing we can win the game. The players have been absolutely excellent. Everything we’ve asked off them, they’ve done.
“We will look to come up with a gameplan that will get us over the line. I don’t want to be associated with being a gallant loser.
“I know there is a sense here with certain people in Donegal that they wouldn’t like to see us going up there and getting demoralised, like what happened last season.”
Donegal relinquished their All-Ireland title at the quarter-final phase last year when they lost by sixteen points against Mayo.
McGuinness added: “I can understand that. Maybe that’s in the mind of some of the families of the players and supporters as well. But the bottom line is that it’s a championship match. We’re 70 minutes from an All-Ireland final and we’ll do everything we can to be in that final. That’s the approach we take to the game.”
With Dublin having swatted away all before them already this summer, McGuinness is well aware of the challenge that awaits from the swashbuckling metropolitans.
He said: “Their system is relentless and they bring a lot of energy to it.”
Last summer, McGuinness could never call upon a squad that was not without its injury problems and participation levels at training were as low as 40 per cent. However, in the last fortnight, McGuinness has noted that figure to have been as high on the scale as 93 per cent.
Mayo and Kerry drew the first semi-final 1-16 apiece after a pulsating clash at Croke Park with the replay scheduled to take place at Limerick’s Gaelic Grounds on Saturday at 5pm.
Declan Bonner’s Donegal minors, meanwhile, are also gearing up to face Dublin in the All-Ireland minor semi-final on Sunday in the curtain-raiser. Eoghan Bán Gallagher is set to miss out because of a hamstring injury, while Donegal also have injury concerns over Stephen McBrearty (hamstring) and Conor Doherty (ankle). Kerry await the winners in the minor final after they dethroned defending champions Mayo 1-14 to 2-7 yesterday.
Bonner has confirmed that he will allow his name to go forward for the position of Donegal senior team...