Donegal Ladies take to the All-Ireland stage this weekend when they face Kildare on Saturday in Kingspan Breffni Park. (Throw in 2 pm).
Saturday’s game is a second round qualifier as the beaten Ulster finalists face the Lillywhites, surprise winners over Laois on Monday last in the first round of the Qualifiers.
Kildare, who bowed out of the running in the early rounds of the Leinster championship, had two points to spare over the ladies from the O’Moore Co, one of the top teams in Leinster.
Donegal go into the tie still hurting from their heavy 5-25 to 1-8 mauling by Monaghan in the Ulster final, just three weeks ago.
For Saturday’s game, goalkeeper Niamh Mailey, who missed the Ulster final, is expected to return to goals while manager Micheal Naughton has to plan without regular centre half-back Grainne Houston, who has joined the summer exodus in recent weeks.
Malin’s Grainne Byrne, a sub in the Ulster decider and St. Eunan’s Ciara Grant are other absentees, with Byrne also having headed Stateside, while soccer committements rules out Grant.
“The girls have put the Monaghan game behind them and just look at it as one of those days when nothing went right for them. They have regrouped well in the last two weeks and have worked hard at training and are looking forward to getting back into championship action and facing Kildare. They are delighted it is Kildare because they know they can beat them, ” said Michael Naughton.
Donegal and Kildare have met once already this year with Donegal taking the spoils in a Division One League game in Kildare.
Geraldine McLaughlin scored 2-6 and Eilish Ward 2-0 goals while Orla Carr, Grainne Houston, Roisin McCafferty and Niamh Mailey chipped in with the points as Donegal emerged 4-11 to 3-8 winners in that game.
Eilish Ward, Grainne Houston and Roisin McCafferty will all be missing from the Tir Chonaill line-up for Saturday’s showdown.
“There are a few girls missing all right, but we have a lot of good young footballers coming through and we also have Niamh Mailey back. Niamh missed the Ulster final because she was away in England on a course but she is back now and that is going to strengthen the team.”
The battle to fill the vacant centre half-back position following the departure of Houston, would appear to be a straight fight between Emer Gallagher from Termon and Glenfin’s Breda McGinty.
Kelly Wilson returned to training at the weekend and is fully fit again after picking up a knock in the Ulster final. Ardara’s Ciara D Shovlin is the management’s only injury concern. Ciara D, who has broken into the team this year, was suffering from a virus last week, but the manager is hopeful the flying corner forward will be fit to take her place alongside Geraldine McLaughlin and Roisin Curran in the front line of the attack.
With the exception of the change at centre half-back the team, which will be named after training tonight (Thursday), is expected along similar lines to the side that started against Monaghan.
The girls may be hurting after their heavy Ulster final defeat, but Kildare are not in the same class as Monaghan. Besides, Donegal have a good record against the Lillywhites down the years both in league and championship football. And of course they have that league win from earlier in the year under their belts too, albeit they will be without Grainne Houston and Eilish Ward from that encounter.
However with the emergence of Roisin Curran as a forward of real class to partner scoring machine Geraldine McLaughlin, the front line of the Donegal attack have the ability to rack up a winning margin and see Donegal through to a quarter-final meeting with either Dublin, Cork or Galway.