Centre-forward Michael Hegarty’s return to fitness has given Donegal manager Jim McGuinness a boost ahead of Sunday week’s All-Ireland semi-final against Dublin at Croke Park.
The Kilcar clubman played the full hour in the All-County League Division Two 1-9 to 0-9 win over St Michael’s on Saturday evening at wing-back and came through unscathed following a bruised knee bone injury sustained in the All-Ireland quarter-final win over Kildare three weeks ago.
Martin McElhinney didn’t line out for St Michael’s in the same game as a precautionary measure with a quad-muscle injury but the complaint will not keep him out of contention for the meeting with the Leinster champions.
Elsewhere, full-back Neil McGee didn’t start for Gaoth Dobhair in their 1-5 to 0-7 win over neighbours Cloughaneely on Saturday in Division One with a dead leg but was introduced for the final 21 minutes. Goalkeeper Paul Durcan played full-forward and kicked seven points - six from frees - for Four Masters in their 0-16 to 1-9 win over Malin.
“Michael Hegarty would’ve been our biggest injury concern,” said Maxi Curran, who is part of McGuinness’s backroom staff. “But he played for his club on Saturday night and is on the mend now. They’ll probably not play between now and the Dublin game and it’s a matter of getting them into peak condition.”
Captain Michael Murphy’s hamstring injury meant he was only fit enough to take a place on the substitutes’ bench against Kildare but the Glenswilly forward still played a vital part, scoring three points. He played the full Raidio na Gaeltachta SFC quarter-final draw against St Eunan’s last Sunday week and his club had no fixture over the weekend.
“The thing about hamstrings or any injuries is that they never really fully recover,” Curran added. “The medics can tell you that it takes six months for an injury to fully recover. You’re in the lap of the gods that it just holds out. Michael is a very important figure for us and what he achieved to play against Kildare was remarkable and he came through last week well so we’re very hopeful.
“He’s training well at the minute and fingers crossed it continues to mend and strengthens in the next week or so. Hopefully he’ll be at full tilt by the semi-final.”
Dublin come into the semi-final on a wave of confidence following a sixth provincial crown in seven seasons and a fantastic 0-22 to 0-15 win over Tyrone in the All-Ireland quarter-final.
Pat Gilroy’s side are priced at 2/5 to overcome Donegal, while anyone interested in having a flutter on the side managed by McGuinness can expect odds of 11/4.
“We’re under no illusions to the challenge in front of us,” Curran said. “The Dubs are a very formidable outfit. They’re going really well and have a couple of excellent forwards in the Brogans and Diarmuid Connolly. It will be a big challenge but it’s one we’ll meet head on.
“We’re not fooling ourselves but we know what our strengths are and we know our own capabilities. Jim has made a fantastic job of the team and the set-up since he came in. He’s given the fellas a great air of confidence and really increased their self-belief.
“It’s a very different proposition to Kildare or any of the other sides we’ve played so far. We’ll endeavour to get as much protection for the men in the full-back line as is possible. A lot of our game is based on support and helping one another out. The amount of effort these boys have put in is tremendous. You cannot give them enough credit for what they have achieved so far.”