First semi-final spot in eight years up for grabs

Tom Comack


Tom Comack

Donegal are heading back to Croke Park this weekend and bidding for a place in an All-Ireland semi-final for the first time in eight years when they face Kildare.

Donegal are heading back to Croke Park this weekend and bidding for a place in an All-Ireland semi-final for the first time in eight years when they face Kildare.

The game, which is the first of the All-Ireland quarter-finals in this season’s race for Sam Maguire, is the main game at GAA Headquarters and is will be preceded by the delayed fourth round All-Ireland Qualifier meeting between Tyrone and Roscommon.

Donegal and Kildare throws in at 6 pm with Tyrone and Roscommon getting underway at 4 pm. There are two more quarter-finals on Sunday when Kerry play Limerick and All-Ireland champions Cork put their title on the line against Connacht champions Mayo. The fourth and final quarter-final game is the following weekend with the winners of the Tyrone and Roscommon tie taking on Leinster champions Dublin.

There is also a third game at Croke Park on Saturday with the Roscommon v Armagh All-Ireland minor quarter-final at 2 p.m.

Saturday evening’s game is Donegal’s second outing at GAA Headquarters in 2011, having already defeated Laois back in May to win the county’s first ever Division Two National League title.

The game will also be the second meeting between the two counties this season. They already have crossed swords in the National Football League at the end of February. On that occasion the Lilywhites came from four points down in the closing minutes to earn a share of the points at the end of a dour, hard-fought low scoring encounter.

A last gasp goal from full-back Michael Foley earned the visitors an unlikely 0-8 to 1-5 draw. And while both sides are expected to field many of the players that featured in that O’Donnell Park clash, there will be significant changes also.

Shane Connolly and Morgan O’Flaherty, who missed the league game have since come into the Kildare team and have featured right through their championship to date. Robert Kelly and Eamonn Callaghan, who has been making the team on a regular basis in recent weeks, only came on as a substitute in O’Donnell Park.

The Donegal line-up has changed too in the intervening months. Frank McGlynn, Rory Kavanagh, Kevin Rafferty, Neil Gallagher and Patrick McBrearty did not play in the league game.

Kavanagh was forced out of the Ulster final against Derry with a troublesome ankle injury and Rafferty missed the Oak Leaf clash with a groin problem. Both players trained at the weekend and may be in contention for places in Saturday’s starting team.

With Dermot ‘Brick’ Molloy’s knee injury picked up last week in a club game not as serious as first thought, other than the St. Eunan’s pair of Kavanagh and Rafferty, Donegal do not have any other injury concerns.

Kildare, who have had their share of injury woes this year, losing the influential Dermot Earley in particular, booked their place in the quarter-final with a comfortable 0-19 to 0-13 victory over Derry, in Croke Park on Saturday.

Donegal trained twice over the weekend on Saturday and Sunday morning and manager Jim McGuinness was also in Croke Park on Saturday for the Kildare /Derry and Cork/Down games.

Donegal GAA officials were yesterday afternoon still awaiting full confirmation of admittance prices for Saturday’s game though county secretary Aodh Mairtin O’ Fearraigh did confirm that the ticket prices for the Stand were adult 30 euro, Juniors (U-16s) 5 euro, senior citizen and students 20 euro while there are also group rates of 3 euro per child for groups of ten with one adult free.

All clubs are advised that ticket orders have to be with the Donegal County Board by the close of business 5 pm this evening (Tuesday).