Donegal and Mayo are fighting for their Allianz League Division One lives when they go head to head this Sunday in Ballybofey. (3 pm)
Mayo are ahead of Donegal in the Division One table on four points, two ahead of Donegal.
But a Donegal victory would move Declan Bonner’s men level and this would see Donegal retain status on the head to head rule and end Mayo’s 21 years in the top flight.
“It sure is a big game for us and Mayo. It is all down to this game but we see it as a huge opportunity to hold on to our status,” said the Donegal boss, Declan Bonner.
“It’s all in our own hands but we are going to have to put in a big performance against a Mayo side that will be going all out to hold to their status.”
Donegal go into the game on the back of defeats by Tyrone and Monaghan while Mayo suffered a heavy defeat at home against Tyrone last Sunday in Castlebar.
Donegal have been without top forward Patrick McBrearty for their last two games. First choice goalkeeper Mark Anthony McGinley hasn’t played since picking up an injury in the opening game of the league, against Kerry at the end of January.
And last weekend against Monaghan, Donegal were without Ryan and Mark McHugh, Odhran MacNiallais and Martin McElhinney, all laid low with a virus.
“It has been a trying campaign and we’ve had great difficulty having a fully fit squad.
“It has also been a hectic ten weeks since the start of the year and we’ve had little time to take a breath.
“But despite this the mood in the squad is good and we definitely want to win and retain our Division One status.
“A win is important for two reasons, first of all to retain our status and two to finish off the league with a win before the championship.”
Donegal have struggled to get a full strength team on the field in any of the six games played in the league.
But despite this the Donegal boss feels, while the results haven’t gone Donegal’s way, there have been positives from the campaign so far.
“We have played well in a lot of games and a little unlucky not to have a few more points in the table.
“Inexperience cost us in a few of the games but the positive is that we have introduced six or seven young players and they have done well. They have gained a lot of experience of playing at the level against the best teams in the country.
“That experience will stand to them in the future and that is why we would like to stay in Division One.”
Patrick McBrearty will once again be absent from the Donegal attack on Sunday.
The Kilcar man is recovering from a quad injury suffered in training before Donegal’s game with Kildare.
But the good news is that the injury is not as serious as first feared.
“Patrick had a scan and thankfully it showed up nothing serious. This weekend is out for him; he will be fine for the championship.”
Bonner had hoped to have three time All-Star full-back Neil McGee back for this weekend. But the game is just coming a little too soon for the Gaoth Dobhair man.
But otherwise, Bonner expects to have the rest of his squad available to him.
“I won’t know for definite until after training tomorrow night (Thursday) but I would be hopeful of having all the lads that sat out last Sunday’s game back.”
Goalkeeper Mark Anthony McGinley is another player that the Donegal management will monitor at tonight’s training.
“Mark Anthony was close to a return a couple of weeks ago, but suffered a slight setback. But he is close again and we will know better after training tomorrow night.”
The Donegal boss also confirmed that Dungloe ‘keeper Danny Rodgers, has been the standby keeper for the last two games.
Declan Bonner has appealed to Donegal supporters to come out on Sunday and get behind the team.
“We need big support on Sunday because Mayo will have a big following. Up to 10,000 Mayo supporters travelled to the Newbridge for the Kildare game. So we need Donegal supporters to come out and get behind the team; it could be the difference.”