Donegal will be at peak against Tyrone, says McGuinness
Published 29/03/2013 | 08:00
Donegal manager Jim McGuinness believes he has carefully choreographed his team's journey to peak fitness with the mouth-watering Ulster championship match against Tyrone on May 26 very much in mind.
But while the reigning All Ireland champions undoubtedly have the capacity to land what would be their third successive Ulster crown and perhaps make a bold fist of retaining 'Sam', their current form and injury concerns give rise to the belief that silverware might prove particularly hard to come by.
And while McGuinness is clearly pleased that his side will have home advantage at MacCumhaill Park, Ballybofey for their provincial showdown with the Red Hands, he is strongly focussed right now on ensuring they remain in Division One.
The Ballybofey venue has undergone refurbishment lately but can still only hold 17,500 fans whereas St Tiernach's Park, Clones, which many people thought might prove the location for the tie, can comfortably accommodate 30,000-plus.
"Obviously we are very pleased that the match will go ahead at Ballybofey. Every side likes to derive the potential benefits of playing at home in the championship and we are no exception," states McGuinness.
"But while the match against Tyrone is on our radar, we have a huge league game against Dublin on Sunday week which we need to win to try and make sure that we stay in Division One."
It is understood that the Donegal boss has received a detailed report on the MRI scan conducted on Tuesday on the knee injury which full-back Neil McGee sustained in the defeat to Mayo at the weekend and he is also assessing the progress of Karl Lacey and David Walsh whose lengthy absences have deprived the side of steel and skill in equal measures.
McGuinness can derive some comfort from the fact that Lacey will resume full squad training next week having completed his rehabilitation following surgery for a hip injury but his return to the actual team could well be delayed until the showdown with Tyrone.
While McGuinness concedes that his side have yet to show their full hand in terms of their fitness levels, their credibility would appear to be diminishing with the passage of time.
"We are not quite at the fitness levels we would hope to be at but we are getting there. Against Mayo our concentration and decision-making were not altogether what they should have been," says McGuinness.
His assessment is meant to reassure the team's huge army of fans but victory over Dublin, who are already through to the league semi-finals, would carry a stronger message a thousand words.
It is no secret that the Donegal management, players and followers were bitterly disappointed by their league defeat to Tyrone – a side they have beaten at the semi-final stage of the Ulster championship in each of the past two years.