DONEGAL V ANTRIM ULSTER CHAMPIONSHIP

Rory Gallagher to name Donegal team for Antrim game on Friday

Tom Comack

Reporter:

Tom Comack

Rory Gallagher to name Donegal team for Antrim game on Friday

Paul Brennan . . . who is only player missing out on selection

Donegal manager Rory Gallagher will not name his starting lineup for Sunday’s Ulster Championship quarter-final opener against Antrim, until tomorrow (Friday)
The game is in MacCumhaill Park, Ballybofey with a 4 p.m. throw-in. It will be preceded by the minor clash between the same counties at 2 p.m.
Former Leitrim player, Paul Brennan, is Donegal's only injury casualty and is out of the frame for Sunday’s David and Goliath clash.
Brennan has had a number of outings at wing back since transferring his allegiance to Donegal at the end of last season.
The Kinlough native suffered a hand injury at work at the end of last week.
“He injured a tendon in his thumb. But it is not as serious as was first feared and I expect to have him back in three to four weeks,” the Donegal boss, Rory Gallagher, told the Democrat.
Other than Brennan and long term injured Kieran Gillespie, the Donegal boss confirmed he had no other major injury concerns other than a few minor niggles.
He also confirmed that he will release his starting team on Friday.
Brennan, who played in the Connacht Championship for Leitrim, would have been in the running for a place in the defence and was part of the planned 26-man match day squad.
The Donegal boss and his management team of Brendan Kilcoyne and Maxi Curran, with an almost fully fit squad, have much to mull over before they put pen to paper.
With Brennan out of the frame and Ryan McHugh fit again the defence is probably going to take the least amount of time to finalise.
McHugh missed the last league game against Mayo with an ankle injury suffered late in the Monaghan league game in Fr Tierney Park.
But the 2014 All-Star came through Kilcar’s championship victory over Gaoth Dobhair, the weekend before last, in fine form.
And he is believed to be showing well in training.
Mark Anthony McGinley will start in goals with Paddy McGrath, Neil McGee and Eoghan ‘Bán’ Gallagher in the full-back line.
Ryan McHugh, Frank McGlynn, Caolan Ward and Karl Lacey will be in the running for the half-back line.
But it is from here up that the fun starts and it may take the midnight oil to name the next eight places.
Martin McElhinney, Michael Murphy, Jason McGee, Ciaran Thompson and Hugh McFadden are the five main contenders for the two midfield positions.
Michael Murphy will, more than likely, be named at full-forward, but will drift out the field and expect to see him in the thick of the action for most of the 70 plus minutes.
If you think Gallagher and his men will have toiled on arriving on their eight and nine wait for the choices in the front six.
Any three from those in the running for midfield, along with Marty O’Reilly, Eoin McHugh, Patrick McBrearty, Cian Mulligan, Michael Carroll, Jamie Brennan and Michael Langan are all in the running for places in the front six.
When you have so much talent, it is little wonder that Donegal are the hottest of hot favourites for Sunday’s showdown.
In the latest betting Donegal are 1/14, Antrim are 9/1 and you can back a draw at 16/1.
Much is being made in the build up to Antrim’s shock one point win over Donegal in 2009.
But times and Donegal have moved on since that sultry June, Sunday afternoon by the banks of the Finn.
Donegal are just at a different level and are up there among the top four in the game. Antrim have gone in the other direction and will play in Division Four of the Allianz League in 2018.
They have lost their most influential player, Kevin Niblock, to a career-ending knee injury. And they are also coming to Ballybofey without team captain James Laverty and the experienced Kevin O’Boyle as well as Conor and Ryan Murray, all injured.
They also have been sidetracked in recent weeks by the controversy surrounding the Matthew Fitzpatrick affair.
Fitzpatrick received a 48-week ban earlier this week for his alleged involvement in an incident against Armagh in the league.