Donegal and Tyrone clash once again this Sunday when they meet in O’Donnell Park, Letterkenny, in Division 3A of the Allianz National Hurling.
The game is a rematch of last summer’s Lory Meagher Cup final in Croke Park, which Donegal snatched with a last gasp Ciaran Mathewson goal to claim the Lory Meagher Cup for the very first time.
But while the surroundings might not be as salubrious on this occasion and the stakes not quite as high, neveertheless this is an important game with valuable league points up for grabs and with Donegal losing their opener away to Monaghan, two league points are very much on the minds of Donegal manager Ray Durack and his players this week.
“We were very ring rusty and lacked match fitness the last time against Monaghan and we paid the price for it. We had only been together a couple of week while they had played something like six challenge games,” said Durack.
“But we’ve got two good weeks of work done on the training pitch and we are playing Derry in a challenge game in Celtic Park, tonight (Wednesday) and we will be in better shape for Tyrone.
“They had a big win in their first game and the will be coming to O’Donnell Park with confidence and no doubt, too, they will be anxious to avenge last summer’s Lory Meagher defeat. But we will be ready for them and we certainly don’t fear them. We respect them, yes, but we do not fear them and we are hoping to give a good account of ourselves but really it is all about building a team for the championship and Roscommon, in the Nicky Rackard, in May.”
Donegal’s prospects for Sunday and the league overall suffered a big setback with experienced defender Jamsie Donnelly picking up a serious shoulder injury in a Tain Club League playing with Sean MacCumhaill’s.
“Jamsie is a loss alright. H is out of Sunday’s game and for the next few weeks, but we have a couple of lads back that we did not have the last day. Chisty McDermott and Benny Harrigan are both available again, Christy missed the Monaghan game with an injury but thankfully he is fully fit again and Benny was not able to travel with us.
“Justin McGee is also working his way back to fitness though he picked up an injury playing for MaCumhaill’s at the weekend and I waiting word on the injury, but I’m hopeful of having him on Sunday.”
McGee, McDermott and Harrigan are all in the running to fill the Donnelly vacancy in the half-back line. But other than deciding on who gets Donnelly’s number five shirt, Durack is not expected to alter his team all that much from that which went down 1-18 to 1-11 to Monaghan two weeks ago in Clones.
Tyrone, who are managed by Lavey man Tom McGill, come to Donegal on the back of an impressive 3-18 to 2-9 win over Tyrone in Healy Park, and will fancy their chances of picking up two more league points.
Following the defeat to Monaghan, the pressure is on Donegal for points and the two wins or at least one win and draw that will save their Division 3A status.
And realistically, Tyrone, this Sunday, and Sligo, also in Letterkenny, the following Sunday, looks their best chance of salvation as it is going to be difficult for Durack and his men to pick up points in their last two games away to Louth and Fingal, the two strongest teams in the league.
Durack will name his team after training on Friday night.