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Donegal go for fifth Ulster final in a row

Donegal manager Rory Gallagher.

Donegal manager Rory Gallagher.

BY CHRIS MCNULTY
A GOLDEN age has a chance to go up by a few carats on Saturday evening in Clones.
Donegal aim to reach their fifth successive Ulster final when they joust with Derry at St Tiernach’s Park (throw-in, 7pm).
Only once previously has the county been in five Ulster finals on the bounce, from 1989 to 1993 in a period that saw the Anglo-Celt captured in 1990 and 1992.
The current crop have already won three, but aim to shoot Derry’s lights out on Saturday to reach final number five.
“The Ulster final is a very special place to be – and that’s where we’re aiming to be next month,” says Donegal manager Rory Gallagher.
“Beating Tyrone and Armagh will count for nothing or will mean nothing if we don’t follow it up now.”
For the first time in history, Donegal have put those heavyweight contenders to the canvas in the same Championship. Now, the prize that dangles before them ahead of a meeting with Derry is the chance of a third final meeting with Monaghan in as many years.
Donegal’s team is expected to be announced on Friday night, but will run along the same lines as that which impressively defeated Armagh a fortnight ago in the Athletic Grounds.
With Patrick McBrearty and Eamon McGee said to be over the hamstring and ankle ailments that cut short their afternoons in Armagh, the only likely change is the reintroduction of Colm McFadden to the starting fifteen.
The St Michael’s man, so impressive against Tyrone in the preliminary round, missed the trip to Armagh owing to a virus. Now back in contention, McFadden could be thrust back in, although with Martin O’Reilly the man looking most vulnerable it is not just clear cut that the 2012 All-Star will regain his place.
O’Reilly netted a second half goal against Armagh and, with 805 minutes under his belt in 2015, is the Donegal player who has seen the most game time this year.
Saturday will see a return to the panel for Declan Walsh while Mark Anthony McGinley will be the substitute goalkeeper following Michael Boyle’s move to Boston.
There will be no place for Daniel McLaughlin or Darach O’Connor, who are down with groin and knee injuries.
Derry lost James Kielt last week when the Kilrea forward withdrew from the panel, disappointed at the lack of game time in their win over Down earlier this month.
Brian McIver, the former Donegal manager now at the helm of the Oak Leaf, is without Daniel McKinless, whose year is over because of a bad knee injury. Karl McKaigue is back in contention, but the game is likely to come too soon for Patsy Bradley, Michael McIver and Emmett Bradley.
Donegal have now won 15 of their last 16 games in Ulster and this will be their eighth time at Clones for a Championship game since 2011.
Gallagher says: “It’s a place that we’re very comfortable in and it’s the place we want to be. Now we’re there, we have to produce it again.”

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