Eoin McHugh out; Lacey back for tilt with Dublin

Eoin McHugh out; Lacey back for tilt with Dublin

Eoin McHugh is set to miss Donegal’s Allianz League semi-final clash with reigning league and All-Ireland champions, Dublin, in Croke Park on Sunday. (4 pm).

The Kilcar man suffered a hamstring injury in the second half of last Sunday’s bruising round seven meeting with Monaghan in Castleblayney. The injury is not as serious as first feared but nevertheless McHugh will sit out Sunday’s encounter.

However, there is better news on former Footballer of the Year and four-time All-Star Karl Lacey. The Four Masters clubman missed last weekend’s game with a bug, but has recovered fully and is back in the frame for this Sunday’s joust with the Dubs.

“Eoin suffered a slight tweak of the hamstring. It is not as serious as was first thought and he should be fine again in two weeks or so, but will miss Sunday’s game,” Rory Gallagher told the Democrat.

“Karl did not travel last Sunday because he had a bug, but he is over that and he should be fine for this weekend, which is a big plus,” the Donegal boss added.

Lacey made his first start of the season against Dublin when the sides met on Easter Saturday having made his first appearance since last summer’s champions when introduced against Roscommon in O’Donnell Park.

Dublin won that game by six points, 1-10 to 0-7, after both sides finished the game with 14 men. Donegal lost Michael Murphy to a second yellow card on 50 minutes after he slid in on the ball as Ciaran Kilkenny was bending to lift.

Dublin lost James McCarthy to a second yellow card for pushing into the face of Martin McElhinney in the melee that followed the Murphy/Kilkenny incident.

Dublin led 0-7 to 0-6 at the time and went on to score a further 1-3 to Donegal’s single point.

In what was a highly defensive encounter with Donegal at times playing 14 men back in their own defence, Dublin led 0-5 to 0-4 at half-time before Donegal briefly took the lead early in the second half thanks to points from Patrick McBrearty and Odhran MacNiallais.

Dublin are the form team in the league and are unbeaten in their seven games to date and are already installed as firm favourites for a fourth Division One League crown in-a-row.

“Dublin are a quality side. They have won three All-Ireland and four leagues in the last five years. But we are looking forward to meeting them again and the challenge they pose.

“We are going into this game in much better shape and stronger than we were two weeks ago. We went into that game without Neil McGee and Frank McGlynn and we lost Paddy McGrath and Michael Murphy in the course of the game.

“Neil and Frank are back and we will also have Paddy and Michael so we are going to be much stronger team wise.

“The one thing we learned from the last game is that we are going to have to up our scoring rate. You are going to win very few games scoring just seven points and to be in with a chance of beating Dublin we are going to have to hit 1-14/1-15.

“That is what we are aiming for on Sunday.”

Donegal are to regroup tonight (Thursday) for the first time since last Sunday’s defeat to Monaghan, after Gallagher gave the squad Tuesday night off.

U-21 captain Ciaran Thompson is also out of the reckoning for Sunday’s game. The Naomh Conaill man has been struggling with a knee injury in recent week and is due to undergo surgery next week.

“It is nothing serious. He will have the surgery on it next week and he should be back in training in a couple of weeks in plenty of time for the championship,” said Gallagher.