Donegal manager Jim McGuinness can cast an eye on Ulster final opponents

Alan Foley

Reporter:

Alan Foley

Donegal manager Jim McGuinness can cast an eye on Ulster final opponents
Donegal will learn their Ulster final opponents on Saturday as Armagh take on Monaghan in the second semi-final at St Tiernach’s Park in Clones.

Donegal will learn their Ulster final opponents on Saturday as Armagh take on Monaghan in the second semi-final at St Tiernach’s Park in Clones.

Jim McGuinness’s team confirmed their place in a fourth consecutive provincial final on Sunday last with a 3-16 to 0-12 win over Antrim.

Karl Lacey missed that encounter with a hamstring strain but returned to training on Tuesday night, while Rory Kavanagh and Neil Gallagher’s conditions are said to be improving.

McGuinness said on Sunday in Clones that four-time All-Star and 2012 Footballer of the Year Lacey wasn’t far off making the starting XV.

“He would’ve been ready to play the game had it been on Monday or Tuesday night,” McGuinness said.

“It was just one of those things where didn’t want to risk him and Rory Kavanagh was the same.”

Kavanagh was available for selection on Sunday after he had been suspended for the 1-11 to 0-11 Ulster championship quarter-final win over Derry last month having been sent off in the Allianz League Division Two final against Monaghan.

However, the St Eunan’s midfielder missed out against Antrim with a strain as his centre-field partner Gallagher was a forced withdrawal on 16 minutes as a consequence of a hamstring twinge.

Gallagher was replaced by Martin McElhinney, while Lacey and Kavanagh saw Odhrán MacNiallais and Darach O’Connor manfully step in as they registered 0-4 and 1-2 respectively against the team managed by Liam Bradley.

“Karl took part in Tuesday night’s session and Neil and Rory were doing a bit to recover,” McGuinness said yesterday.

“We’d expect Rory to be another week with a synergist muscle, which isn’t the hamstring or the groin, it’s in-between.

“It’s not a major problem and Neil is starting his recovery from the hamstring so we’re happy enough with how things are and we are looking forward to the Ulster final.”

Meanwhile, McGuinness has insisted he is more than content with the existing provincial structures in light of the second set of proposals released by the Football Review Committee (FRC) this week.

The major thrust of the FRC’s document is the restructuring of the All-Ireland championship so that each province has exactly eight quarter-finalists.

That would mean Munster receiving two Leinster counties, the losers of their own first round games, while Connacht would take the losers of the Ulster preliminary round as well as one of the three beaten first round teams in Leinster’s first round.

McGuinness, though, has always been a fervent supporter of the Ulster championship.

“We’re definitely happy enough with the existing Ulster championship,” McGuinness said.

“It’s a very prestigious championship and a very difficult competition to win. When we do get over the line in Ulster, it’s certainly something that is savoured by the players, management and supporters.”

Donegal will take on the winners of Saturday’s semi-final between Armagh and Monaghan back in Clones on Sunday, July 20, thow-in 4pm.

Declan Bonner will also been a keen observer at St Tiernach’s Park on Saturday as Amagh and Monaghan face one another in the Electric Ireland Ulster Minor Football Championship semi-final.

Bonner’s Donegal assured themselves of an Ulster final place following their 2-19 to 1-10 victory over Antrim last Sunday.

The Ulster minor final, starting at 2pm, will precede the seniors. It’s the fifth time - after 1963, 1991, 1992 and 2006 - that both Donegal teams will share Ulster final day.