Do or die game for Donegal

Donegal and Armagh square up this Sunday in Ballybofey in the final game of their 2012 Allianz National Football League campaign. (Throw in 2.30 pm).

Donegal and Armagh square up this Sunday in Ballybofey in the final game of their 2012 Allianz National Football League campaign. (Throw in 2.30 pm).

And with both hovering at the wrong end of the Division One League, this weekend’s encounter is a make or break tie as far as their survival in the top flight.

Donegal are sitting second from bottom of the Division One table on four points from their wins over Cork and Mayo, just ahead of Laois on score difference, who also have just two wins from their six games to date.

Armagh with two wins - over Kerry and Down and a draw with Cork - are just above Donegal and Laois on five points and go in the weekend in the unusual situation that if they pull off a win they are in with a chance of making the lucrative knock-out stages.

But should they lose they could find themselves making the drop to Division Two along with either Laois or Down.

“It’s a big game and is a do-or-die game as far as our Division One status is concerned. It is a must win game and we will be going all out to win it and to preserve our place in the top flight,” said Donegal manager Jim McGuinness.

“We would prefer to be in a better position, going into the game with a place in the last four assured or going in with a chance of making the semi-finals.

“But it is still a good game and the type of game you want in preparation for the championship and Cavan on the 20th of May. With both teams knowing they have to win means it will be competitive and at near championship pace. It is the type of game you want to be playing ahead of the summer and the championship.

“We have to win, a win by a point and we are safe and that is the objective on Sunday and we will be going all out to achieve that and be still in Division One come Sunday evening.”

With Micheal Murphy out with a knee injury, Murphy’s partner up front Colm McFadden is the Donegal manager’s only injury concern, but the boss is fairly confident that the St. Michael’s man will be fit to spearhead the attack in the absence of skipper Murphy.

McFadden, who missed the Dublin game with a hamstring injury, played for St. Michael’s on Sunday against Naomh Conaill and was complaining of a tightening of the hamstring at the end of the game.

“Colm played a club game at the weekend and we will see how he goes at training on Wednesday night (last night), but hopefully he will be fine but you never know with a hamstring and it is a matter of giving him time.

“Everybody else is fine, Patrick McBrearty is in London this week at Australian Rules trials, but he will be back for the game. Except for Micheal (Murphy) everybody else is fit and well.”

However, it is learned that McBrearty may not be back in the country until Sunday morning, which is not ideal preparation for such a big game.

Armagh’s prospects have received a huge shot in the arm this week with the news that captain Ciaran McKeever has had the red card picked up against Laois rescinded and is to face no further sanction and will be free to face Donegal.

And there was further good news for Orchard followers with the return of Crossmaglen players Jamie Clarke, Tony Kernan and James Morgan. The Cross men returned to training on Tuesday night and are in the squad for Sunday.

Whether or not any of them make the starting 15 remains to be seen with the free scoring Clarke the most likely to get the call if O’Rourke opts to make changes from their last outing and that narrow win over Down.

Crossmaglen players Aaron Kernan, Paul Hearty and James Hanratty have not returned to the Armagh squad and are not expected to do so until after this weekend.

For most of the Donegal squad there is more than precious league points and Division One survival at stake. There is also personal pride and setting the record straight.

In their last two meetings when in the League in April 2010 (O’Donnell Park), and the following June, in Crossmaglen in the championship (first round qualifier), Donegal suffered a very heavy defeat beating at the hands of the Orchard men.

In the Letterkenny encounter Finian Moriarty and Steven McDonnell scored the goals in a 2-16 to 0-6 hammering, while two goals in the opening seven minutes from Jamie Clarke sent Donegal packing before they could raise a gallop in Crossmaglen. Armagh won that game with nine points to spare, 2-14 to 0-11.

While Jim McGuinness has taken over from John Joe Doherty many of the personnel on both sides are still around and it is an ideal opportunity for Donegal to set the record straight and also ensure top tier football again next year.