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Donegal determined to stay in football’s top tier

Michael Murphy and Neil Gallagher with Rory Gallagher after the 2012 All-Ireland final win over Mayo.

GAA: ULSTER SENIOR FOOTBALL CHAMPIONSHIP SEMI-FINAL

DONEGAL has the ability, both on and off the pitch, to stay in the top tier of football contesting honours at both provincial and All-Ireland level into the future.

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That is defiant message from County Board chairman Sean Dunnion ahead of next weekend’s Ulster semi-final meeting with Tyrone in Clones.

A win for Rory Gallagher’s talented young charges would ensure that Donegal will contest their seventh successive Ulster final come Sunday, July 16 at St Tiernach’s Park.

Given that you have to go back to 1992 to find the last time the Anglo Celt Cup came back to Donegal before the 2011 win over Derry, it’s a remarkable record.

In 2012, Jim McGuinness’s men retained the provincial title on their way to winning the All-Ireland title for just the second time while the Anglo Celt Cup was back in Donegal again two years later 2014 – the year they lost to Kerry in the All-Ireland final.

Writing in his ‘Irish Times’ column last week McGuinness questioned Donegal’s ability to keep pace with the likes of Dublin, Kerry, Tyrone and Mayo.

“Donegal have managed to thrive after making a breakthrough in 2012, but I would be less certain of their ability to stay in that top tier unless football is resourced properly at board level,” McGuinness wrote.

However, Donegal chairman Sean Dunnion said that he remains confident that the Tir Chonaill county can maintain its standing as one of the top teams in the country.

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Inter County football has changed beyond recognition in recent times and it’s becoming increasingly expensive for teams to stay at the top.

Last year it cost approximately €1.5 million to run Donegal GAA, an increase of some fifty per-cent on the corresponding figure from five years earlier.

“We think we can stay there. It will continue to take a hugh effort from two perspectives, namely the ongoing development of players through the underage system and finance which is always a big challenge,” Dunnion said.

The Four Masters club-man said that the recent fund-raising trip to New York helped in that regard but admitted that it’s a delicate balancing act.

“Costs are increasing all the time while we’re also conscious that we are trying to develop a training centre in Convoy.

“It’s important that we see that particular capital project through to a conclusion. With that in mind we hope to go to tender for the building works in Convoy later in the summer.

“We’re trying to get the balance right between the demands of having a successful team and staying within the resources that we have available to us. We want to be competing with the best teams in the country however and we’ll continue to support Rory (Gallagher) and his players,” Dunnion said.

“I would agree however that, nationally, the GAA needs to look at how the Inter County game is funded. It’s a conversation that needs to be had in the next year or two,” he added.

Meanwhile, Donegal manager Rory Gallagher will hold a press briefing tomorrow afternoon ahead of next weekend’s semi-final.

With captain Michael Murphy and full-back Neil McGee back training after they were forced from the field during the All County League clash between Glenswilly and Gaoth Dobhair two weeks ago news is expected to be positive on the team front.

With McGee’s Gaoth Dobhair team-mate Kieran Gillespie back in training following a troublesome hamstring injury, Gallagher is expected to have a fully-fit squad available to him for the first time this year.

Tyrone manager Mickey Harte has also received recent good news on the injury front with confirmation that experienced defenders Justin McMahon and Cathal McCarron have both resumed full training having being sidelined through injury over the last few weeks.

Both players missed out on the quarter final win over Derry at Celtic Park last month but they are set to take their places in the full back line.

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