Tom Comack firstname.lastname@example.org @dgldemocrat
Rory Gallagher is happy that Donegal are ready for the challenge that Ulster champions, Tyrone, will present in Sunday’s Ulster semi-final showdown in Clones.
The Donegal boss was speaking on Tuesday evening in Ballybofey at his last press briefing before Sunday’s shootout.
The former Fermanagh star forward also reported a clean bill of health for the joust with the champions, in what is a repeat of last year’s Ulster final.
That means captain Michael Murphy and All-Star full-back Neil McGee have recovered from minor knocks they received in a club game two weeks ago.
He also reported that Kieran Gillespie is back in full training and will be in the match day squad.
The young Gaoth Dobhair man’s season has been dogged by injury and his last outing for Donegal was in their second last league game against Monaghan in Ballyshannon.
He replaced his club colleague Neil McGee for the second half of that game and had a good 35 minutes on Monaghan dangerman Jack McCarron.
Another of the young guns, Michael Langan, was due to return to training on Tuesday night after suffering a knock to the knee in a recent club league game.
The manager also confirmed that Karl Lacey, Jamie and Paul Brennan are all 100% fit again.
And he also reported that Patrick McBrearty was flying fit and was looking good for a place in the starting 15.
St Eunan’s Rory Carr is the only player in the squad nursing a knock this week. Carr has missed most of the season recovering from shoulder surgery and he received a knock to the shoulder again on Sunday in St Eunan’s league game with St Michael’s. But the injury is not serious.
“Unless something happens at training tonight or Thursday night, we’re in a very good place,” said the Donegal boss.
The game is a repeat of last year’s Ulster final won by Tyrone, 0-13 to 0-11, thanks to late monster points from Peter Harte and Sean Cavanagh. Tyrone came from four down early in the second half in what was another epic and close Donegal and Tyrone encounter.
“It was a day where everything was hard-earned and I honestly think a lot of that was down to the sapping heat,” said Gallagher.
“The game was nearly like a punch bag. One team would go at the other, and then the other would come back the other way.
“Sunday could be quite different. First of all, it gives it to be a lot cooler, and it won’t be as energy draining.
“It could open up, or it might not. I think that (the heat) had a lot to do with last year, but games can open up very quickly without people realising.”
NEVER LOOK BACK
But the Donegal boss is not into looking back.
“You can never turn the clock back,” he insisted.
And besides this is a new look Donegal team with many of them never having experienced a big championship game such as Sunday’s before.
“I’ve never asked some of the younger players in our squad, but they mightn’t even have been at the game. I don’t know.
“This is a new team. We can’t rewrite the past. We had the upper hand on Tyrone for a number of years, but you just have to move on.“Whatever we are presented with this year is all we are concerned about.”
When asked if Donegal were a better side than last year the manager said he was not going to judge the team against last year’s team.
“There were a lot of great players in last year’s team.
“We have a lot of guys hungry this year with an awful lot to prove.
“All I can say is that I am very content and happy with the work that we have put in, and with the attitude of everybody in our group, and with the quality of it.”
And what of Tyrone, how do you rate them?
“We are playing the Ulster champions. We are playing a team in the top three or four in the country.
“At the start of the year they would have definitely being the third or fourth favourites for the All-Ireland.
“We were further down the pecking order than that and it is a huge test for us. It is one we are looking forward too.
“And being honest we always knew providing we looked after Antrim and Tyrone looked after Derry we knew it was going to come down the road as I’m sure Tyrone did.
“It is going to be a huge test to see where both teams are at.”
Gallagher feels that Tyrone are a quality team and their system and the nature of the way the play the game is their real strength.
“Their defence is a threat because they are exceptionally difficult to break down.
“That then gives them a massive advantage in the counter attack as well. It is the way they play their football.
“It is a very definitive way they have of playing. They don’t go orthodox, though I know they experimented a little with it in the league.
“They don’t play the traditional game the way Dublin and Kerry might play, though they play lots of men behind the ball as well, though they play a distinctive counter attacking play.
“They get a lot of kick outs away. They run the ball well and overall they are very strong.
“We all know Sean Cavanagh. He is still a very important player for them.
“They have Bradley inside and they have an awful lot of talented players, Peter Harte, Mattie Donnelly, Niall Sludden, Conor Meyler. They have an awful lot of talented players.”
Donegal defeated Tyrone earlier this season in the league, by double scorers, 0-12 to 0-6. But Rory Gallagher believes a league game in March will have little relevance when the ball is thrown in on Sunday in Clones.
“They are good to get. You always want to win every single game and Tyrone are no different.
“The league is very important when you are in the middle of it. But when you look back on it, every team is different.
“That game was funny, it was three each or four each after 18/19 minutes and we got a few points and got a couple more to stretch it out to half-time. And the game in the second half became very stop start so I wouldn’t read too much into it.
“But no two games are ever the same. They beat us up there in 2013 and we turned the tables in the league and in 2015 we won very comfortably (league) and it ended up going down to last five minutes in the championship.
“And hand on heart that is how both teams expect this weekend, it to go down to the last five minutes and whoever has the most quality and the highest levels of steel will go through.”