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Gallagher is confident Lacey has won his battle to regain fitness

By Declan Bogue

With Neil McGee's appeal against his suspension thrown out in midweek by the GAA's Hearings Committee, the health of Karl Lacey has become crucial to Donegal's hopes of beating Monaghan in tonight's Ulster Championship semi-final.

While nobody would expect Lacey to directly pick up Conor McManus given his age and the wear and tear injuries have had on his body, his game-sense and positional intelligence would make him a formidable sweeper to sit in front of Monaghan's star man, who is likely to be marked by Paddy McGrath.

Donegal boss Rory Gallagher told the Belfast Telegraph: "We had him (Lacey) doing a bit of training on his own last week. We didn't force the issue and we got him in this week and the signs are good, he is good to go."

Asked if he is in contention to make a start, Gallagher replied: "Yes, 100%. It was a niggly calf thing, it was only minor. We expected him to be out for five or six days and he slightly re-injured himself so we took a cautious approach. After the Fermanagh game, one way or another we were going to have another game.

"So he just did a bit of running over the last eight or nine days, two or three days before the Fermanagh game, and then a wee bit after that. We integrated him after that and he is fine. He seems to be fine, we didn't do a lot of hard training, but the signs are good."

One statistic that has been thrown around this week is that in 14 Ulster Championship meetings between these two sides, Monaghan have emerged victorious on 10 occasions.

Even when they operated in Division Three in 2013, they still came out of nowhere to seize Donegal's Ulster crown, when they were All-Ireland kings.

Donegal took the 2014 Ulster title, but Monaghan survived a second-half rally to win again last year.

Asked if there was a certain 'hoodoo' between these two sides, Gallagher acknowledged: "You don't look at anything too much.

"Really, over the last few years they would have had the edge over us both in Championship and league matches overall.

"I suppose you don't concern yourself with what happened in the past, you leave it there and you try to see what they do better than us.

"Overall, going back to last year's Ulster final, Monaghan took their chances in the game and we didn't take ours. It's nothing to do with a hoodoo or anything like that."

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