By Tom Comack
Donegal manager Rory Gallagher has reported a fully fit squad ahead of Saturday evening’s eagerly awaited All-Ireland Senior Championship showdown with Dublin, in Croke Park.
The game throws in at 6 pm and is the second of the quarter finals at GAA Headquarters on Saturday. The other tie is the clash of another two of the championship heavyweights, Ulster champions Tyrone who go head-to-head with Mayo. That game throws in at 4pm.
These are two big games, but the meeting of Donegal and Dublin is the one that has grabbed the imagination of the football public. Dublin are very much seen as the leading team in the country and by a good stretch. But in the eyes of many neutrals, Donegal, despite their Ulster final defeat to Tyrone, are seen as possibly the only team capabel of stopping the mighty Dubs in their tracks.
Donegal bounced back from their Ulster final defeat to beat Cork last Saturday in a high scoring qualifier, Donegal chalking up a 0-21 to 1-15 win over the Rebels.
“Everybody came through the Cork game with no major problem,” Rory Gallagher said at yesterday’s press briefing in the Abbey Hotel, Donegal town.
“We had a few knocks and bruises alright and a bit of soreness among the older lads. But everybody is fine.
“We have a fully fit squad with the exception of Neil Gallagher, which is massive for us,” added the Donegal boss who said the Glenswilly man was back in training, but would definitely not be in the match day squad of 26.
“Neill is working his way back in training,” he said.
“Obviously these weeks, we are not doing much training. Since the Ulster final it is very limited what we have done so getting up to match speed is going to be difficult for him. But after this weekend he should be back in contention.”
Donegal, are the last team to defeat Dublin in the championship. That was in the 2014 All-Ireland semi-final when the Jim McGuinness-managed Donegal caused a huge upset, beating the reigning All-Ireland champions, by six points in a 3-14 to 0-17 win.
Dublin were the raging hot favourites for that game. And two years on the Sky Blues are once again being touted as unbeatable. However, that doesn’t bother Rory Gallagher or his Donegal squad.
“It may sound boring but it does not bother us at all,” he said.
“It’s no different to playing Fermanagh on the 12th of June, every opponent gets the same respect.
“Whether people think we are going to win or not, we are going to have to do our homework on them just like we have done for all the other teams we faced this season.
“All we know is that we are going to have to produce a top quality performance if we are to be in with a chance of winning and that does not change because the fact that it is Dublin.” Gallagher believes that Dublin, contrary to popular opinion, are beatable.
“There is no doubt they are the most consistent team in the country. They have only lost two championship matches in the last five years.
“From Stephen Cluxton out they have a defined game plan. He is brilliant from his kick-outs. They like to kick the ball, but they have also adopted their game for playing against defensive set-ups.
“They are able to keep the ball moving and overall they bring an awful lot of quality to the game and they have a ferocious work rate.
“We respect them as a team and the honesty and endeavour they have as a group.
“I think they are a very good side. It is up to others to determine how good they are. All we are concerned with is being better than them on Saturday evening.
“They are beatable and they know that. But to beat them you have to do an awful lot of things right. You produce a level of intensity greater than theirs. You’ve got to make sure when you get the chances you put them away and that is the challenge for us on Saturday evening.”