It is down to the last day in the Allianz Football League and for Donegal and Armagh, who meet in the Athletic Grounds, the stakes couldn’t be higher.
Donegal need a win or at least a draw to clinch a place in the Division Two final and top flight football next season. Armagh are also chasing the points to ease their relegation worries.
An Orchard County victory will ease all those worries while defeat and Laois overcoming Down in O’Moore Park, could see them joining neighbours Louth, in the drop to Division Three.
The Donegal scenario in ways is a little more complicated. Donegal could lose and still be promoted. If they were to lose and Meath overcome Louth and Down defeated Laois, Donegal’s much superior score average should be good enough. However, if Donegal and Meath lose and Down win. That would leave Donegal and Down level on nine points and by virtue of the head to head win, Down would be promoted. That scenario also includes Monaghan defeating Galway to finish top of the division.
“The bottom line as I see it. We have to go out and win the game and, if not, at least draw to make sure th t we are promoted. Any other result and we are relying on other results to go right for us elsewhere,” said Donegal boss Jim McGuinness.
“So from our point of view and the way we are approaching the game is to go out and win and leave no doubt about. And I guess that is the way Paul Grimley and Armagh will be approaching it too.
“All of which should lead to a fairly competive encounter with a lot at stake and is ideal really for both counties in the build up to the championship. It is the ideal type of game as we look forward to the championship,” insisted the Donegal boss, who takes his squad away for a week long training camp in Portugal on Thursday next.
Donegal face Derry in the first round of the Ulster Championship on Sunday May 25th in Celtic Park - seven weeks from Sunday. And Armagh host Cavan, the following Sunday in the Athletic Grounds, also in the Ulster Championship.
McGuinness insisted that the league campaign had been a good one for Donegal and had been highly competitive.
“We are very happy with the league and the way it has gone for us and we’ve had a number of very competive games. We have played some very good football and kicked some very good scores and we are going into the last game top of the table and pushing for promotion.
“The plan now on Sunday is to go out and put in a performance and finish on a winning note and win promotion and not be hoping for others to do us favours. Our destiny is in our own hands.”
Like last week ahead of the Louth game, Jim McGuinness will not name his team until tomorrow, Friday, at the earliest.
This was due to a combination of Donegal’s Ulster U-21 semi-final meeting with Armagh, in Cavan last night, and a number of niggly injuries.
Ryan McHugh, Patrick McBrearty, Marty O’Reilly, Hugh McFadden and Darach O’Connor all featured in last night’s game, while regulars Neil Gallagher (groin) Martin McElhinney (bug) and Frank McGlynn (hamstring) missed last Sunday’s Fr Tierney Park, 1-19 to 3-7 victory over Louth.
Karl Lacey has also been on the treatment table this week too. The Four Masters was forced out of last Sunday’s game at half-time with a leg injury.
“Karl suffered a dead leg against Louth. It is just above the knee and it isn’t too serious. We will monitor him like the rest of the boys again tomorrow night (Thursday), but I expect he will be fine so it is fingers crossed that the U-21s come through and all the other injuries clear up.”
Martin McElhinney has recovered and is expected to start at midfield alongside Rory Kavanagh in midfield.
The teams have met once already this season in the Athletic Grounds. That was in January in the McKenna Cup and a Colm McFadden goal nine minutes from time saw Donegal emerge 1-12 to 0-11 winners.