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We are good enough to beat Dublin, insists Gallagher

By Declan Bogue

Dongeal manager Rory Gallagher does not dispute that this weekend's opposition could be the greatest Gaelic football team of all time, but he is also emphasising that Donegal haven't lost a game at their Ballybofey base for seven years ahead of Dublin's visit (tomorrow, 2pm).

"We have a very proud record in Ballybofey and we haven't lost here since 2010. We really, really enjoy playing there. The crowd's brilliant, there's great surroundings, it's a beautiful pitch," Gallagher began.

"We want to put our best foot forward and the pressure comes from within. We want to deliver and test ourselves against the best teams in the country and this week we're playing - without a shadow of doubt - the best team in the country."

While the All-Ireland champions are now held in the same esteem as the Kerry team of the 'Golden Years' generation, the coach in Gallagher insists it is down to their hard work, and that the subsequent success has led to a complete change in how the average Dublin footballer is perceived.

"They have a core group there. Stephen Cluxton, Philly McMahon, Paul Flynn, Cian O'Sullivan, James McCarthy - those boys were around back in 2011 when we went toe to toe with them," he said, referencing that infamous All-Ireland semi-final.

"They had faced a lot of tough days at that stage and people forget that. From 2005 to 2010, people were labelling Dublin all kinds of things. They came out the other end and they are still there. We in Donegal very much admire them."

While news broke this week of Neil Gallagher's enforced retirement after a back disc problem saw him breaking down in training, Gallagher is boosted by the news that he has several players on the way back.

Karl Lacey is getting over a calf niggle, while Darach O'Connor is almost ready to resume his county career.

Frank McGlynn is also working his way steadily back to full involvement and will once again see gametime this weekend.

Playing Dublin will be a tough task, Gallagher admits.

"You're playing the double All-Ireland champions. It's exciting. The players look at the fixture list and that's the one they look to first. We had a humdinger with them in 2011 with a lot of late drama in it," he said.

However, he believes his side can play an attacking game, despite the draw Tyrone gained by playing a strict game of cat and mouse with their counterattack a fortnight ago.

"Any team that plays Dublin end up defending quite a bit. Kerry were quite defensive in a semi-final last year despite conceding 22 points. We have to adapt on different days," he said.

"Our big focus is about new players and playing to our strengths. Our strengths are attacking. We are pleased with our scoring return, but we have conceded too much and we rode our luck. It won't change too much just because it's Dublin."

Elsewhere in the Allianz Leagues, Tyrone cult hero Mattie McGleenan gets to taste action in Healy Park again when he brings his Cavan side there hoping to build on their draw from the last day out against Monaghan.

Tyrone signalled their intentions before the break in the league in that draw with Dublin and have an opening day win over Roscommon.

In the other Division One game involving an Ulster team, Monaghan make the long trek to Killarney to take on a Kerry side that have shown more appetite than usual for the early skirmishes in the league.

In Division Two, Fermanagh could share the bus with Monaghan, as they are away to Cork.

The Rebels are still seeking their first win while the Erne men were left smarting after an early black card for Eoin Donnelly ultimately cost them against Galway.

Derry claimed a point off Clare on the opening day, but were handed a trimming - 3-15 to 0-9 - at Navan the last day against Meath. They face a tall task against league leaders Kildare tomorrow in Celtic Park.

Down might have welcomed keeping a low-key after their last performance against Clare, but have hit the headlines again after an email sent by county secretary Sean Óg McAteer was leaked to the press. They host Meath tonight.

In Division Three, the two Ulster teams sit marooned at the bottom.

Armagh's habit of fading out of games will need to be addressed in their trip to Longford, while Antrim have a job on their hands trying to gain their first point of the league when Sligo come to Corrigan Park.

Belfast Telegraph

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