Can Donegal's Paddy McGrath complete hat-trick against Monaghan on Sunday?

Can Donegal's Paddy McGrath complete hat-trick against Monaghan on Sunday?
Peter Campbell sport@donegaldemocrat.com @dgldemocrat

After extending their unbeaten run in MacCumhaill Park to 17 games on Saturday night last, Donegal have another record to maintain this Sunday when they entertain Monaghan in Fr. Tierney Park, Ballyshannon.

Donegal haven’t lost a league game in Ballyshannon since 2009 when Dublin were winners by 0-13 to 1-8. Their last outing against Monaghan at the venue was back in 2004 when Brendan Devenney hit 3-1 as Donegal ‘stole’ the points with 1-2 in the final minutes to win by a point, 3-6 to 1-11.

Fr. Seán Ó Gallchoir has all the impressive stats in Sunday’s match programme on that game and other meetings with Monaghan. Interestingly Paul Durcan made his Donegal debut in goals in that 2004 meeting.

Since then the sides have met four times, all in the last three years with Monaghan having the upper hand 3-1.

The most recent league meeting was in Castleblayney last April when a late, late point from corner back, Colin Walshe, secured the win for Monaghan and saved their Division One status.

With Dublin, Tyrone, Donegal and Monaghan all level on seven points in the table, there is plenty at stake on Sunday as the winners will be in a strong position to make the league final.

Donegal will not be able to finalise a team until after last night’s U-21 replay with Tyrone. They will also be hoping that Patrick McBrearty, Frank McGlynn and Caolan Ward will have recovered from injury. McBrearty missed the last two games and is still struggling with a groin problem. McGlynn was withdrawn last Saturday night at half-time with a tight hamstring while Caolan Ward, who had been doing so well since getting a run of games this year, tweaked a quad muscle in training on Thursday night.

But no matter what team Donegal select, they know it will be another Ulster battle. If they can reproduce their point-taking performance from Saturday night (11 of their 12 scores from play), then they could be well on their way. Paddy McGrath is on a hat-trick after his spectacular effort against Tyrone (to go with his first against Down in the McKenna Cup in 2016).

It has been a busy period for the U-21 players in the squad with the midweek games in the Ulster U-21 championship meaning two games per week for those players. No doubt they will hope that the pattern continues until early April at least!

The last meeting between Donegal and Monaghan was in the Ulster Championship semi-final replay last summer when Donegal came out on top.

A similar result will suffice on Sunday.