Donegal renew Monaghan rivalry

Donegal renew Monaghan rivalry

Donegal make the trip to St. Mary’s Park, Castleblaney, on Sunday next for the final game in the Allianz League Division One (2.00 p.m.)

The four games in Division One will all throw-in at the same time and by 3.25 p.m. calculators will be needed to see who will be in the National League semi-finals and who will be the bottom two who will be relegated to Division Two for the 2017 season.

Donegal and Monaghan have a chequered history in recent years and you can go back to 1985 for a last meeting at the Castleblaney grounds when Donegal were sent packing in a championship game by a wide margin of 1-14 to 0-7.

A ten point defeat would be enough on Sunday to avoid relegation, but it wouldn’t do much for the confidence going forward, especially as we could well meet the Farney men again before the end of June in the Ulster Championship.

Donegal were back in training this week after losing out to Dublin at the weekend and a good few of the squad lined out for their clubs in league action on Easter Monday.

Manager, Rory Gallagher, has reported that his players have come through the weekend without picking up any more injuries and he said the Donegal side are still focused on securing a league semi-final spot.

“In reality, this weekend is no different to last weekend. Playing against Monaghan is just one more of the challenges we have had to face.

“Ourselves and Monaghan have a lot to play for on Sunday,” said Gallagher.

Monaghan need to win first of all and then they will be looking at how the other sides - Cork and Mayo - are getting on. It is impossible to understand all the permutations.

However, the one statistic that is clear is that anything less than a win for Monaghan will leave them in relegation trouble. Mayo, who are also on four points, have Down at home and it would be a major shock if Mayo did not win that game.

“We have come off second best against Monaghan on a good number of occasions recently. They always present a tough challenge,” said the Donegal boss, who is not overly concerned about travelling to Castleblaney.

“They haven’t played there a lot either. It is a ground that takes only 7,000 or 8,000 so there should be a good atmosphere.”

Asked about the possibility of meeting them later on in the summer, Gallagher wasn’t ready to think that far ahead. “The summer is a long way off. We want to get to a semi-final and get an extra game,” he said.

The Donegal manager said he was happy enough with the way the game against Dublin had gone and, like many, wondered what might have had happened if they had not lost their captain, Michael Murphy.

“When you’re playing against the likes of Kerry and Dublin, you are always going to be in a very tough game. Dublin have racked up some very big scores against teams and I felt we performed well, especially as we had two debutants on the team, Mark Anthony McGinley and Kieran Gillespie, who both did very well.

“The loss of Michael Murphy was huge. Any time we are not without him is big for Donegal; he is such a big part of our game,” said Gallagher, who also explained that the reason for Paddy McGrath being taken off was due to a calf strain. “Calf strains can be very difficult and troublesome and although Paddy was happy to stay on, we decided that it would be better to take him off as a precaution so as not to aggravate the injury,” said Gallagher.

Donegal will need to show improvement on Sunday next on their recent tilts with Monaghan.

In championship, Donegal defeated Monaghan in 2014 but lost out a year later, both in Ulster finals, while in the league Monaghan have won the last two encounters - the Division 2 final of 2014 in Croke Park (1-16 to 1-10) and the meeting in Letterkenny last year (0-9 to 1-4). The sides also met in Division 2 earlier in 2014 in Letterkenny, with Donegal winning by 2-11 to 0-10.

See Back Page for injury updates.