Possible League final at stake when Donegal meet Tyrone on Saturday - Rory Gallagher

Tom Comack


Tom Comack

Possible League final at stake when Donegal meet Tyrone on Saturday - Rory Gallagher

Tom Comack @dgldemocrat

Donegal have more or less secured their top flight status and Donegal manager Rory Gallagher is looking up and a possible league final.

He feels that reaching the league decider would be a positive for his new look team.

And he believes the bid for a place in the league decider begins this Saturday, when Donegal face the old enemy, Tyrone, in MacCumhaill Park. (7 pm).

Donegal are currently in third place in the Allianz National Football League table, just one point behind Dublin, two behind table toppers and Saturday night’s opponents, Tyrone.

And unless there is a strange series of results in the remaining three rounds of games, Donegal will be playing Division One football again next season.

Speaking at the end of last week, and ahead of Tyrone’s meeting with Cavan on Sunday in Healy Park, Gallagher said that Donegal should target qualifying for the league final.

“Yeah, why not, absolutely,” said the Donegal boss, when asked what was his attitude to reaching a league final now that their status in the division had been more or less nailed down.

“The reality is if Tyrone beat Cavan on Sunday, the winners of ourselves and Tyrone will be in a very strong position,” he went on.

“Looking at the fixtures for everyone else, Dublin are still in the prime position.

“But the winner of our game (Donegal v Tyrone) stand a good chance.

“We haven’t looked that far ahead. Just like we never talked about relegation. But no doubt, we’d love to make a National League final.

“It’s still a massive ask with the three games to come.

But there is no doubt though that would be the ambition.”

After Saturday night’s clash with the Red Hands, Donegal host Monaghan the following Sunday in Fr Tierney Park.

And they wrap up the league in Castlebar against Mayo a week later.

The Donegal boss also insisted that the prospect of facing five in-a-row chasing Dublin on the wide open spaces of Croke Park is not something that would unduly worry him.

“I think in the League the last number of years, sides have been keen to make the final.

“Kerry were very keen to get there last year. For whatever reason, for a while there it was seen as not a very good thing (making final).

“I think getting to Croke Park, regardless of who else was there waiting, would be a brilliant experience for everyone.

“It would be a sign that we are doing a lot of good things over the course of the Spring. But we’re not worrying about that just yet.”

Tyrone went top of the Division One table on Sunday evening following their 0-19 to 1-9 win over Cavan.

The Red Hands, who are unbeaten in the campaign so far, came from four points down at half-time, 1-8 to 0-7, to win comfortably by seven.

After Saturday night, Tyrone’s,last two games are home to Mayo and away to Kerry.

But while Donegal are in a good position, Gallagher is also realistic enough to realise that other than Donegal’s two wins - Roscommon and Cavan - have been against the two weakest teams in the division.

Donegal lost to Kerry in O’Donnell Park and drew with Dublin in Ballybofey.

And he believes the next three games - Tyrone, Monaghan and Mayo - will give Donegal a very clear indication of where they are at.

“The next three outings are sides gearing towards championship and have that bit more training under their belts.

“We know we’ll have big challenges with those games. But we also will have a better idea where we’re heading coming into summer.”

And the Donegal boss freely admits that the first of those big challenges is against Tyrone, a very balanced team.

He feels they have scoring threats right through the team and they have a very solid defence and are difficult to break down.

“They’ve got total footballers all over the pitch. We know ourselves we were a match for them last season. They shaded it in the end.

“They have scoring threats all over the field but they are also very hard to score against. I think that is the strongest part of their team.

“I think they’ve on average only conceded nine or 10 points in each game.

“They’ve been really hard to break down. They’ve a very distinctive style of play.

“It served them well in Ulster last year and they lost an All-Ireland quarter-final when they only leaked 13 points. The fact that their defence is so good, that’s their strength.”

He also insists that it is a game that both teams will want to win in the hope of not only taking a step closer to a league decider, but to lay down a psychological marker for later in the summer.

“I think both sides will go into it like that. They’ll know there could be a potential clash down the line. We played each other in the league in 2015, in 2013, we know what’s ahead.

“People may talk about holding back for championship but I can’t see ourselves, Tyrone or any side we play thinking like that.

“The two points are the most important thing along with getting the momentum that comes with another win.”