Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 2 September 2014

Donegal hopes to be boosted by Lacey return

Jim McGuinness (left) is confident Karl Lacey (right) will be back for Donegal's huge clash with Tyrone
Jim McGuinness (left) is confident Karl Lacey (right) will be back for Donegal's huge clash with Tyrone

Donegal manager Jim McGuinness remains hopeful that Karl Lacey will be available for the Ulster Championship showdown against Tyrone at MacCumhaill Park, Ballybofey on May 26.

Having assessed the Red Hands performance in their one-point defeat to Dublin in last Sunday's Allianz League final, McGuinness has taken on board the fact that even without skipper Stephen O'Neill and the influential Peter Harte, Tyrone still managed to stay in touch with Jim Gavin's side until the final whistle.

And, in common with most analysts, McGuinness believes that Tyrone will have taken rather more from the contest than the Dubs in terms of an insight into their championship strategy.

But while he prefers to pass on detailed observations on the threat that Tyrone might pose to his team's prospects of landing what would be a third consecutive Ulster crown, McGuinness is happy to reflect on Lacey's return to full training and the fact that his squad will be augmented by an additional raft of experience.

Lacey has not played for Donegal since they won the All-Ireland title last September having undergone a hip operation just before Christmas, after suffering his injury while playing for Four Masters against Naomh Conaill in the county championship semi-final at O'Donnell Park, Letterkenny.

"We have been monitoring Karl very carefully as we have our other injured players and he did some work on his own in March before re-joining the squad and taking a full part in the training during April," explains McGuinness.

"Obviously it is a big ask to achieve full championship-level fitness coming back from injury but Karl and the other players who have been out are particularly keen to be in action against Tyrone if at all possible."

In addition to Lacey, Donegal hope to have David Walsh, Neil McGee, Paddy McGrath, Neil Gallagher and Christy Toye back in the selection frame for the Ulster series.

McGee is building towards full fitness again, midfield ace Gallagher is working hard to improve his stamina and Walsh, whose abrasive style lends an extra dimension to the Donegal side, is regaining his sharpness.

However, Toye's struggles with what McGuinness terms "a unique virus" continue but he may be able to fulfill the role of substitute through which his vast experience could be usefully deployed.

While this catalogue of injuries has consumed McGuinness's thinking of late, he has expressed disappointment that so much has been made of Donegal's demotion down to Division Two in the league.

"I think it is forgotten that only for Paul Mannion's late, late point for Dublin in their game against us at Ballybofey in the last round we would still be in Division One next year – that's the thin line that separates staying up and going down," points out McGuinness.

But all that will be forgotten if Donegal can get the better of Tyrone in the Ulster Championship at the end of the month.

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