Gallagher: “We must
improve on last two”

Gallagher: “We must 
improve on last two”
Donegal will stay in the Great Northern Hotel in Bundoran before they take on Laois in their make-or-break game in the Qualifiers on Saturday.

Donegal will stay in the Great Northern Hotel in Bundoran before they take on Laois in their make-or-break game in the Qualifiers on Saturday.

For older supporters and players, the venue will have some resonance as it was the place that Donegal put the final touches to their games in the 1980s and 1990s.

Saturday in Carrick-on-Shannon (5pm throw-in) is the Last Chance Saloon for Donegal as they face Laois, who were initially well beaten by Louth 1-16 to 1-6 in the first round of the Leinster Championship.

The O’Moore County have racked up big scores, winning 3-13 to 0-12, against Carlow and 3-17 to 0-10 against Clare while they had two points, 0-16 to 2-8, to spare over Wexford last Saturday. Loais kicked only two wides in that match to Wexford’s 16.

It is a first ever meeting between Donegal and Laois in the championship and the big task for the Donegal management team this week is to lift the morale of the team, which was dented by a comprehensive 0-1 3 to 0-7 defeat by Monaghan in the Ulster final.

They will have to plan without Mark McHugh, who suffered a perforated eardrum, concussion and a quad muscle tear in the early stages after just seven minutes of the Ulster final after the clash with Stephen Gollogly. The Kilcar clubman was only released from Letterkenny General Hospital on Tuesday.

Donegal didn’t get much change from referee David Coldrick, but the management were making no excuses .

“It was disappointing, especially on such a big occasion with a bid Donegal crowd,” said assistant manager, Rory Gallagher. “Nobody expected Monaghan to play as well and it was probably our worst performance from our championship game with Antrim in 2011

“What is ahead of us on Saturday evening is an opportunity which achievable.

“We didn’t perform to the level required but the upshot is that we are still in the championship.

“Dublin did not get the wake-up call until they were 10 points down against Mayo last year. At least we still have the opportunity.”

Apart from McHugh, Gallagher revealed that while a few players had knocks, including Rory Kavanagh, all would be available for selection on Saturday.

Donegal and Laois are no strangers to each other. They have met a number of times in the Allianz League since Jim McGuinness took charge in 2010.

Donegal won their encounter in the Division Two League final in Croke Park in 2011, however in league games in O’Donnell Park and O’Moore Park, Laois have come out on top. In all of those games there has been little between the sides with Donegal’s victory in Croke Park by just one point, 2-11 to 0-16

Gallagher said the management team’s job this week was to lift the squad.

“We will be doing relatively little training and try to get ready to produce an improved performance,” he said.

No doubt Justin McNulty and Laois will have looked at what Monaghan, who they beat 2-12 to 0-12, did to Donegal.

The one worry for the Donegal N0 2 is that Sunday’s defeat followed a less than impressive semi-final win over Down.A huge improvement is needed and this was something Gallagher stressed ahead of the clash with Laois.

“We won’t do it unless we improve on our last two championship performances,” he said.

Let’s hope that the surrounds of the Great Northern Hotel, Bundoran will coincide with a change of fortune.

Saturday’s qualifier will not be screened live on television but the ladies’ qualifier against Westmeath, also in Carrick-on-Shannon at 3.15pm is live on TG4.