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Donegal shrug off troubled build-up

By John Campbell

A highly-publicised club versus county fixtures row and rumblings of discontent within some sections of the media that players have rather suddenly become unavailable for interview hardly constitutes the ideal backdrop to Donegal's preparations for Sunday's Allianz League Division Two final against Monaghan.

Yet this scenario is unlikely to perturb manager Jim McGuinness as he draws up his blueprint for what he hopes will be revenge for last year's Ulster final defeat at the hands of the Farney County.

His team may have charted a consistent path in reaching the divisional decider but they have tended to remain under the radar this year and the current mood within the county would almost suggest a siege mentality.

Be that as it may, McGuinness is obviously keen to see his players do their talking out on the park against a Monaghan side that still have injury concerns and have yet to reveal the flair and style that took them into the All-Ireland quarter-finals last year when they were only beaten by Tyrone by 0-14 to 0-12.

Suitably chastened by events last year which included a shock to the system in the Ulster decider and a humiliating mauling by Mayo in the All Ireland quarter-finals, McGuinness for his part has been much more focused and taciturn this term.

And this is reflected in the way his team is performing – coldly clinical, efficient and devoid of real flair. But then there are many counties who would just love to be in their position today.

They go into Sunday's match bolstered by a fine league run, encouraged by the strength on their bench and buoyed by the ongoing faith of their fans who were out in big numbers even to support the Under 21 team in their Ulster final eclipse by Cavan.

Outstanding forward Patrick McBrearty broke the Donegal silence this week but only from the 'safety' of a high-profile GAA initiative launch at Croke Park at which Derry's Chrissy McKaigue and Monaghan's Dick Clerkin were also present.

Referring to the club versus county impasse he said: "For us county players it is kind of a mixed opinion on it. The senior management don't want the players to be injured but the club still needs to play games."

A Donegal win on Sunday, though, could perhaps apply at least a temporary soothing balm to what is an open sore.

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