Injury-struck Donegal hoping to raid the Red Hand County

By Shaun Casey

DONEGAL are preparing for their second all-Ulster clash in a row when they take on Tyrone at O’Neill’s Healy Park, Omagh on Saturday afternoon, and both sides go into the game with identical records.

Tyrone and Donegal have experienced the exact same start to the league.

Both have picked up one victory from their two outings and both have lost to the only other Ulster outfit in Division 2B, Derry.

Following an impressive opening day win against Wicklow, Donegal hosted the high-flying Oakleaf County in round two and while they gave as good as they got, goals were the difference between the sides in the end.

The two majors came either side of the half-time break and while Mickey McCann’s side would have been disappointed to lose the game, there were plenty of positives and learnings to take from the encounter.

But that only counts for something if they can back it up this weekend and leave the Red Hand County with two points securely tucked away.

Donegal however know they’ll be in for another battle.

Donegal burst out of the traps in round two and charged into an early five-point lead with the scoreboard reading 0-8 to 0-3 by the end of the firstquarter but they allowed Derry back into the contest and the sides were tied by the time the short whistle sounded.

Gerard Gilmore has been the man on form in the Donegal attack and he has carried his outstanding club form with Setanta, which led to an Ulster Intermediate title, into the inter-countyscene.

He rattled off almost half of their tally against Derry, claiming 0-9 of their 0-19 tally, following an impressive haul of 1-9 in their 2-23 to 0-13 victory over Wicklow on the very first day.

The Tir Chonaill men have been without some first-choice regulars in the past few weeks, and they’ll hope those key man can return to the fold sooner rather than later.

The likes of Champion 15 All-Star Danny Cullen has yet to see any game time, while Declan Coulter, who missed out on Setanta’s historic provincial run through injury, currently remains on the sidelines as well.

Ronan McDermott, who claimed three points against Wicklow in the 2023 Nickey Rackard Cup final, has also missed out but Bernard Lafferty did return as a second-half sub for Donegal against Derry and could be in with a chance of receiving a starting jersey this week.

This weekend’s clash with Tyrone could be just as tight as last year’s when one-point was the difference between the sides, with Donegal just coming out on the right side of the result thanks to a late Oisin Marleyscore.

That was a crucial victory for McCann’s side as it secured Donegal’s place in the league semi-finals and that will once again be the target this time around.

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