Countdown is on for clash with Tyrone

Donegal manager Jim McGuinness has ramped Donegal training up this week ahead of next Saturday’s eagerly awaited Ulster semi-final meeting with Tyrone in Clones. (Throw in 4.30 pm)

Donegal manager Jim McGuinness has ramped Donegal training up this week ahead of next Saturday’s eagerly awaited Ulster semi-final meeting with Tyrone in Clones. (Throw in 4.30 pm)

Donegal, who had their usual post match de-briefing session on Sunday morning last after their 2-13 to 0-9 win over Derry the night before in Ballybofey, have already had three hard sessions in the past week. And they are due to train again this morning as McGuinness and his number two Rory Gallagher finalise the final touches and tactics ahead of Saturday’s showdown, which a repeat of last year’s semi-final won by Donegal.

Donegal trained on Thursday night in Killygordon, McGuinness putting his men through a two and a half hour long session and they had another lengthy session yesterday morning (Saturday) in Glenfin.

And with Rory Kavanagh back training this week and expected to be fit for Saturday’s game after missing out on last weekend win over Derry with an ankle injury, it does appear that McGuinness will have a fully fit squad available to him.

And given the performance and the manner and ease at which Derry was put to the sword, McGuinness and Gallagher have a major selection dilemma this week before they name the starting 15 for Tyrone.

If Kavanagh, who captained the team against Cavan in the preliminary round, is declared fit, the big question is should the St. Eunan’s man be included in the starting line-up and if he is, who is to make away? It certainly is a big decision especially given Ryan Bradley’s man of the match performance alongside Neil Gallagher, who is possibly having his best season ever in a Donegal shirt.

McGuinness is not expected - as has become customary - to finalise his team until shortly before throw-in time on Saturday evening. Meanwhile, Tyrone manager Mickey Harte has more or less give up on having the versatile Justin McMahon for the game. McMahon, who has become the O’Neill Co regular full-back in recent seasons, is struggling with a hamstring injury and is in a race against the clock to be fit for Saturday evening.

The Omagh, St. Enda’s man has not trained in the last two weeks and was rated extremely doubtful by Tyrone PRO, Damien Harvey last night.

Other than the long term injured Sean Kavanagh, Kyle Coney and Ronan O’Neill, Tyrone have no other injury worries.

Tyrone, too, have stepped up the training this week and as well as their usual Tuesday and Thursday night sessions, trained yesterday morning and are due to have another run out again this morning. Mickey Harte is set to name his team after training on Thursday night.

Donegal won the corresponding game 2-6 to 0-9 last year in a highly tactical battle with Tyrone having much the better of the first half exchanges in terms of possession, but struggled to break down Donegal’s defensive wall. Donegal stepped op a little more in the second half and goals from Colm McFadden and Dermot ‘Brick’ Molloy sealed the win for Donegal and a place in the Ulster final.

In the process Donegal dethroned Tyrone, who were chasing a three in-a-row of Ulster titles. The shoe is on the other foot this time around and another fascinating tactical battle is anticipated with Donegal, on the back of their wins over Cavan and Derry, going into the game as favourites.

But Tyrone impressed against Armagh, when they pulled away again in the closing minutes of their first round encounter in the Morgan Athletic Grounds after the Orchard Co came from behind to draw level.