Donegal are on the edge of the Promised Land once more and a second successive Nicky Rackard Cup final in Croke Park.
This Saturday, the reigning Nicky Rackard Cup holders face Fingal in the semi-final of the third tier senior hurling championship, in O’Donnell Park. (Throw-in 2.30 pm).
The game, which is a rematch of last month’s Division 2B promotion/relegation play-off, is Donegal’s third game on the trot in the competition.
They lost their opening game, a preliminary round tie against Roscommon, in Athleague, by a single point. However, Ray Durack’s charges have bounced back in some style with big wins over Monaghan and then Louth last weekend.
And going by their 3-26 to 0-15 victory over Monaghan, in O’Donnell Park and their 5-14 to 1-9 whipping of Louth last Saturday, in Louth, the champions are showing all the signs of a side that are not going to relinquish their Nicky Rackard crown without a fight.
“Looking back on that defeat (against Roscommon), while we did not like it at the time, it was something of a blessing in disguise. We’ve had two good games and results under our belts while Fingal have had just one game,” said Donegal manager Ray Durack.
Fingal defeated Louth 0-12 to 0-10 in their first round game at the beginning of the month.
Donegal had a whopping 14 points to spare over the North Dubliners in their promotion play-off, in Kingspan Breffni Park. Donegal won that game 2-16 to 0-8, despite playing the second half with 14 players after losing Jamsie Donnelly to a red card just before half-time.
“I have no fears whatsoever of complacency. The prize is too big and the boys have put in too much hard work and are too focussed to getting back to Croke Park and winning back-to-back Nicky Rackard Cups, to be caught napping.
“If we don’t win, complacency will not be an excuse. We are treating Fingal like we have treated all teams all year. We have to just go out on the day and give it our best shot and we are fairly confident if we do that, the result will be the right one.
“The boys are playing very well and improving with every game and there is a great confidence in the squad and in their own ability.”
Ciaran Mathewson, Danny Cullen, Kevin Campbell, Paddy Hannigan and Sean McVeigh scored the goals for Donegal in last week’s victory over Louth, while Mathewson hit 0-7 - four of them from placed balls - McVeigh (3), Cullen(2), Campbell and Eugene Organ were the Donegal points scorers.
“We played very well against Louth and took some brilliant scores. It was a brilliant performance of a mix of the running and long game and was one of our best performances of the season.
“We will be hoping to repeat that performance on Saturday and if we do I would be fairly confident that we will come out on the right side of the result.
“We got off to a great start last week with two early goals and really put Louth on the back foot from the word go and we will be hoping to do the same against Fingal.”
Donegal were at full strength last week against the Wee County and with nobody picking up any knocks and Durack reporting a fully fit squad the Donegal manager is expected to stick with last week’s starting 15 for the second week in-a-row.
Roscommon and Tyrone meet in the other semi-final, also on Saturday. And with this a home game for the Rossies, it is looking like another Nicky Rackard Cup final showdown between Donegal and the Shannonsiders on Croke Park’s hallowed sod.
The Nicky Rackard Cup final is fixed to June 7th in Croke Park.