Donegal set for Orchard challenge

Donegal  set for Orchard challenge
Donegal are on the road for the first time this season on Sunday when they face Armagh, in the Athletic Grounds, in the Dr McKenna Cup.

Donegal are on the road for the first time this season on Sunday when they face Armagh, in the Athletic Grounds, in the Dr McKenna Cup.

The game is a round two Section A match and following last weekend’s three point home defeat to Tyrone, Donegal will be anxious to get back to winning ways.

Armagh, on the other hand, will be aiming to build on last Sunday’s impressive performance 1-17 to 0-15 victory over Queen’s University, also in the Athletic Grounds.

The game is the first meeting between the sides since their 2012 Allianz League clash in Ballybofey. Donegal won that game by three points 0-13 to 0-10 to ensure their survival in the top flight. The win also exorcised the ghost of the previous July’s heavy Qualifier 2-14 to 0-11, championship defeat in Crossmaglen.

Donegal turned in a decent first half performance against the Red Hands on Sunday last, and led by three points at half-time, 1-5 to 0-5, having played into a stiff wind.

But it all unravelled in the second half as an experimental Tyrone, with only three of the players that lost last September’s All-Ireland semi-final defeat to Mayo, took control of the game.

Donegal only scored two points in the second period, both off the boot of team skipper Michael Murphy. Murphy 1-4 ; Colm McFadden 0-2 and Eamon McGee 0-1, were the only Donegal scorers on the day.

“We were happy with the first half performance and felt we were in a comfortable position at half-time. But we fell away in the second half and it all happened very quickly. We simply ran out of a steam in a big way in the second half,” said Donegal manager Jim McGuinness afterwards.

“Hopefully with the game under our belts we will be able to pick it up for next Sunday agianst Armagh.”

Armagh ran up an impressive 1-17, albeit they conceded 0-15 to the Students. They scored 1-9 in the second period on a day they had nine different scorers.

Marty O’Reilly, who spent last Sunday night in Letterkenny General Hospital suffering from concussion close to the end of last weekend’s game, is definitely out of Sunday’s game.

And with the length of his injury list, McGuinness’s options are pretty limited with Thomas McKinley and Antoin McFadden the most likely replacements. Karl Lacey, who sat out the Red Hands game with a hamstring strain, is another possibility, though the manager may not want to risk the Four Masters ace for fear of aggravating the injury.

It may be a similar story when it comes Paddy McGrath, Neil McGee and Neil Gallagher, who all who returned to training on Tuesday night after lengthy layoffs. Naomh Conaill’s Leon Thompson may also be in the running.

McGrath, Gallagher and McGee are all returning from long term injuries and in the case of Ardara man McGrath groin surgery. Thompson, who was recalled to the squad by McGuinness, has returned to training in recent weeks.