BY CHRIS MCNULTY
DONEGAL have selected the same team that started the All-Ireland final in September to face Tyrone in Sunday’s eagerly-awaited Ulster SFC quarter-final at Sean MacCumhaill Park (throw-in 4pm).
The Donegal management have put faith in the fitness of 2012 Footballer of the Year Karl Lacey and All-Stars Frank McGlynn and Mark McHugh, who have all been in the race against time to take part in a game that has taken on a life of its own.
“Everybody is good to go, everyone trained on Wednesday night,” the Donegal assistant manager, Rory Gallagher, confirmed to the Donegal News this afternoon.
Initial concerns had been expressed over Lacey and McHugh, but this week there were grave worries over the fitness of Frank McGlynn, who suffered a minor hamstring tear a couple of weeks ago.
However, these fears were allayed by Gallagher, who insisted that the Glenfin man will be fit to take up his sentry from the off.
“He is fully fit and has a lot of training done,” he said.
“It’s been a matter of protecting the hamstring, but he’s fine.”
McHugh and Anthony Thompson did not take part in the full training, but there was nothing of concern that the duo trained on their own in Ballybofey.
“Mark and Anthony did a good bit on their own,” Gallagher said, “but it was a vigorous running session and when they’d finished that we were almost done.
“Everyone was full out and no-one was holding back.”
May 26th has always been the date Lacey was targeting for his comeback.
Lacey has not played a competitive game for Donegal since the All-Ireland win on September 23rd. Hip surgery in December saw the four-time All-Star miss out the entire National League and he has just 200 minutes of football under his belt – an hour for Four Masters in the All-County League against Kilcar as well as challenge games for Donegal against Galway and Roscommon.
A minor calf injury stunted his comeback trail, but it looks certain that the Donegal town man will be in from the start.
Gallagher said: “He has played two full inter-county challenge games and there is absolutely no problem with his injury.
“He has had a really good four two five weeks under his belt.”
Declan Walsh is the heir apparent were Lacey to be kept in reserve, but for a game of this magnitude it seems implausible that a player of his refinement and influence would be kept with a watching brief.
Indeed, it would not be a surprise were Lacey not deemed up to the rigours of that demanding role in the orthodox number 6 position, but instead stationed with a marking brief in the corner where it should be remembered he won All-Stars in 2006 and 2009.
The player himself this week suggested that he was ready to go to war.
“I’m available for selection,” Lacey said.
“I’ve been pushing myself hard the last few weeks because this is ‘the game’. I’d say he has been pushing me a wee bit harder to get fit for it. I’m happy with where I’m at. It took a wee bit longer than I thought, but I have plenty of cardio sessions under my belt.”
The Tyrone manager, Mickey Harte, was due to name his starting fifteen last night, Thursday, at a function in Garvaghey and, aside from Ronan O’Neill (hamstring) and Aidan Cassidy (ankle), the Red Hands are said to have no concerns.
Donegal (Ulster SFC v Tyrone): Paul Durcan; Paddy McGrath, Neil McGee, Eamon McGee; Anthony Thompson, Karl Lacey, Frank McGlynn; Neil Gallagher, Rory Kavanagh; Mark McHugh, Leo McLoone, Ryan Bradley; Patrick McBrearty, Michael Murphy, Colm McFadden.