Donegal walk the tight-rope as Mayo come to Ballyshannon

Donegal face Mayo this weekend in what is a make or break game when it comes to their Allianz National Football League Division One ambitions at Fr Tierney Park in Ballyshannon, throw-in 2.30 pm.

Donegal face Mayo this weekend in what is a make or break game when it comes to their Allianz National Football League Division One ambitions at Fr Tierney Park in Ballyshannon, throw-in 2.30 pm.

While Donegal are currently sitting at the wrong end of the Division One table, they are still in with a chance of making the knock out stages.

However, the focus this weekend has to be on taking the full points and moving away from the bottom rung to avoid getting locked in a relegation dog fight.

While history and past records don’t win games, Jim McGuinness and company will be greatly encouraged by Donegal’s record from past league meetings with Mayo.

In eight meetings in the National League over the last 30 years and since the leagues were revamped back in 1980, Donegal have won five times with two games ending in a draw, and the Connacht men only taking one victory.

But history and record alone will not be enough on Sunday. Donegal are going to have to step it up and bounce back from their disappointing performance against Kerry last weekend.

“We were disappointed with our performance in Kerry and that we did not play up to the level we are capable of. But we have to accept that Kerry are a very good side and I feel the boys will have learned from the experience and know what we have to do to reach their level and be ready for them when we meet again,” McGuinness told the Democrat last night.

The manager is looking forward to the Mayo challenge on Sunday and the opportunity to get back on track and back to winning ways as they bid to move away from the foot of the league table and into possible contention for a place in the knock out stages.

But for the manager, as it has been all season and indeed since he took on the job, his main priority has been the performance and if his players get that right, the result and everything else takes care of itself.

“The good thing about the game at the weekend is that we do not have to wait three or four weeks to get back into action and get the poor performance out of our system.

“Sunday’s game gives us the opportunity to put last Sunday and Kerry behind us and to step it up against Mayo and put in a performance and play the football we are capable of. If we do that I feel we have a right good chance of getting a positive result.”

Donegal returned to training last night after McGuinness gave his players an extra night to recover and to get over the long trip to Kerry.

“It was a long and tiring journey to Kerry, so we felt it was important to give the boys the extra night and I expect they will return to training tonight (Wednesday) much fresher as a result.”

Martin McElhinney has shaken off the ankle injury that has side-lined him since the first game of the campaign against Down. He was due to return to training last night.

“It is good have Martin back, I’m not sure if he will be in the running for a place in the team at the weekend, but we will know better when we see how he goes tonight,” the manager added.

“The good thing is that we have him back and training again. Thankfully all the injuries are clearing up and it is now a matter of building up fitness levels and sharpening up on ball skills and getting everybody into shape and ready for the championship.”

McGuinness has no major injury worries from last weekend’s trip to Kerry and he expects to have a fully fit squad before he decides on his final selection before the weekend.

While he was giving nothing away on his thinking on his selection for the clash with the Connacht champions, he did not rule out making one or two changes from the team that started in Killarney.

Mayo, who suffered their first defeat of the campaign last weekend against Down, were still mulling over whether or not to appeal Aidan O’Shea’s red card picked up in their clash with Down earlier this week.

But like Jim McGuinness, and following last weekend’s setback, Mayo boss James Horan may make one or two alterations to his formation for the trip to Ballyshannon.