BY CHRIS MCNULTY
NEIL Gallagher is expected to make a return to training with the Donegal squad this weekend, but the veteran midfielder remains a doubt for Sunday-week’s Ulster Championship clash with Derry at Celtic Park.
The Glenswilly man rolled on an ankle during training last Friday night in Convoy and spent the weekend on crutches. Gallagher was present at Wednesday night’s training session, but took no part. The 31-year-old former All-Star will be assessed closely by the Donegal medics this weekend, when he could be restored to a competitive environment.
The squad is spending the weekend in the Inishowen peninsula, with training on Friday evening, Saturday and Sunday. It could be Sunday before Gallagher is reinstated.
“He is happy himself with how the injury is progressing and he is doing all that he can,” Donegal manager Jim McGuinness told the Donegal News.
“It will be a decision for the medical team as regards when he gets back to training, but we’re hopeful that he’ll be able to train at the weekend. He’s doing all the recovery as laid down and is getting the necessary treatment. He is back walking on it, which is an obvious positive.
“We’re hopeful of getting him involved by Sunday but, again, it’ll be left to the medical team to make the call. Neil had a similar injury before and feels that he’s in better shape this time.
“The bottom line is that we’ll give him every chance of being fit to play in Derry.”
Colm McFadden also missed Wednesday’s session with the St Michael’s man laid up by a bout of flu, but he is likely to take a full part in Friday evening’s session.
Patrick McBrearty trained on Wednesday having been out for a week with a calf injury and the Kilcar man has reported no ill effects. Deposed by Dermot Molloy for much of the National League, the Kilcar man is now a front-runner to be included in the attack deployed by McGuinness in Derry.
At this stage, Gallagher is regarded as the only ‘doubt’ for Donegal, who are definitely missing the suspended Rory Kavanagh.
McGuinness said: “Everyone else is fine as regards fitness. We trained on Wednesday and had a good session. Everyone is positive and we’re just trying to push it on now. We’ll train Friday and Sunday, with a light bit of work on Saturday now. It’ll be nothing major, but it’s about finalising the plans that we’ve laid down.
“We had a good League campaign that we’ve taken a lot from it. All along, our number one goal has been the Derry game and it’s almost upon us now.”
In the event that Gallagher isn’t given the green light, Donegal would be without their All-Ireland-winning midfield combination as Kavanagh serves a one-game suspension. The most likely option in that scenario would be an all-St Michael’s centrefield of Martin McElhinney and Christy Toye.
The other options open to McGuinness in that sector are Hugh McFadden, Conor Classon and Luke Keaney, with the manager reluctant to move Michael Murphy from his sentry on the edge of the square.
In Derry, where former Donegal boss Brian McIver is calling the shots, James Kielt and Ryan Bell have recovered from groin and shoulder problems and are said to be in the frame to feature against Donegal, as is Sean Leo McGoldrick who played for Coleraine against Newbridge last weekend having missed the National League final against Dublin.