Wing-back Anthony Thompson looks set to miss Donegal’s crunch Division One Allianz League clash with Cork in Pairc Ui Rinn on Saturday. (Throw-in 5 pm)
The Naomh Conaill man was a late withdrawal from last Sunday’s victory over Kerry in Ballybofey, after he tweaked a hamstring in the warm-up before the game. He is one of a number of Donegal players on the physio table this week and he has a race on his hands to be fit for Saturday’s joust on the banks of the Lee.
This was confirmed yesterday by Donegal assistant manager Rory Gallagher.
“It is looking as if Anthony won’t make it. He is receiving treatment, and while it is not a major tear or anything like that, a hamstring can be slow and besides we don’t want to run the risk of further damage which could see him miss five to six weeks. If a player is not fit we will not play them,” said Gallagher.
Neil Gallagher has been receiving treatment for a hamstring injury in recent weeks and Ryan Bradley, who was also complaining of a hamstring problem after last Sunday’s game, is also receiving treatment this week.
Mark McHugh, who sufffered a calf injury late on in the Tyrone game and missed last weekend’s game, is also on the doubtful list again this week.
“Mark is due to have a scan this evening but like Neil Gallagher and Ryan Bradley, we are hopeful of having Mark for Saturday evening.”
With Anthony Thompson more or less ruled out, Declan Walsh, who played well when he deputised for the Glenties man last Sunday, is more than likely to get the nod again this weekend.
And Ryan McHugh, Mark’s younger brother, who replaced his sibling for the Kerry game, is a shoe-in for his the number seven jersey should Mark fail to prove his fitness.
Ryan McHugh along with Patrick McBrearty are members of the Donegal U-21 team that play Tyrone next Wednesday night in Omagh, in the first round of the Cadbury U-21 Ulster football championship, but they are both in the squad and making the trip to Cork.
McBrearty, on the back of a good performance last week, his best of the season so far, is also expected to start once again alongside Michael Murphy and Colm McFadden.
The tie is a rematch of last summer’s All-Ireland semi-final meeting which was generally accepted as one of the best games of football in the 2012 All-Ireland championship. It is also a crunch game in both county’s league ambitions.
Donegal won their joust in August by 0-16 to 1-11 after Colm O’Neill struck a late goal for the Rebel County. It was regarded as an with Donegal taking out one of the favourites for the championship in convincing fashion.
Now both are on four points in the Division One League table with Donegal’s better scoring average from their four games meaning the All-Ireland champions are in fourth place with the Rebels in fifth place.
“It’s a big game on a couple of fronts. I’m sure they will be gunning to get one back for the All-Ireland semi-final defeat, but like ourselves they also need a couple more points to make sure of their status for next year,” Rory Gallagher insisted.
“A win this weekend means the pressure is off and we can relax and play out the other two games happy in the knowledge that we have retained our Division One status. And we can go away prepare for the championship and try a few things out in the remaining two games.
“Lose and we will be still looking for two points from the last two games to stay up. It is the same for Cork which tees Saturday’s game up nicely to be a tasty contest.”
Cork lost their two opening games to Dublin and Kildare but have bounced back in recent weeks with two good wins. They had a narrow one point victory over Down in Newry, the weekend before last and they followed that victory up with a surprisingly comfortable six point, 0-14 to 0-8, win over Tyrone in Healy Park on Sunday last.
However, that victory came at a price as Conor Counihan lost corner forward Ciaran Sheehan with a soulder injury. Counihan is also planning this week to be without Sheehan’s replacement Donnacha O’Connor with an Achillies injury.
With the six day turnaround Donegal only trained once this week, last night (Wednesday) and with a number of of players carrying knocks, the starting 15 is not expected to be finalised until Saturday afternoon in Cork.
The team are due to fly from Donegal Airport in Carrickfinn, on Saturday, departing at 11 am and returning after the game on Saturday night.