GAA: Ulster SFC semi-final
By Harry Walsh
THE Donegal management will have 33 players to choose from when they sit down to finalise their match-day squad of 26 for next Saturday’s Ulster SFC semi-final against Derry in Clones (throw-in 7pm).
Team manager Rory Gallagher expects Colm McFadden, recovering from a virus which forced him to miss the quarter final win over Armagh, to train this weekend and put himself in the frame for selection.
Gaoth Dobhair defender Eamon McGee, who rolled an action late in the first half against Armagh, and goalscorer Patrick McBrearty (tight hamstring) have also made good progress in recent days and are also expected back on the training pitch.
Buncrana’s Darach O’Connor (knee) is the only member of the current panel who is unavailable for duty on Sunday due to injury, although Gallagher has confirmed that goalkeeper Michael Boyle has left the panel. The Termon net-minder flew out to Boston earlier this week.
On the plus side though, Malin defender Declan Walsh is set to return to the county panel.
“In fairness Michael told me about his plans four or five weeks ago, but held off until after the Armagh game. He felt it was the right decision for him at this time and we wish him the best of luck.
“The situation with Declan (Walsh) is that he’s now back training with the lads in Dublin. Again, I spoke to him four or five weeks ago and we’re delighted to have him back on board,” he said.
With the dust well settled on last Sunday’s impressive 2-11 to 0-08 win in Armagh, Gallagher has already switched his focus and attention to Derry.
“We have players who can produce good moments of skill and that was evident at times last Sunday but there are still areas for improvement.
“There were a lot of elements in our play, even in the first half, that I was not too pleased about and we’ll be punished when we come up against teams from a higher division,” he said.
Derry are a team that Donegal would be familiar with over the past number of years, but Gallagher has noticed a different approach from the Oak Leaf squad this time around.
“Last year they started very well and flew through the league and maybe didn’t do so well in the Championship, but this year they’ve eased into the league and appear to be concentrating all their efforts on the championship.
“I’m led to believe that none of their county men have played league football in four or five weeks which would be a new thing in Derry. Their entire focus is on next weekend’s game,” he said.
However, having disposed of two high calibre teams in Tyrone and now Armagh the Donegal machine appears to be well-oiled, even at this early stage of the Championship.
“We’ve had two tough encounters alright and, at the end of the day, the most important thing is that we came through them without picking up an injuries. We’ll train hard again over the weekend and see where we’re at this time next week,” he said.