Donegal's Neil McGee fit to face Down in Ulster semi-final
DONEGAL'S Neil McGee is back in training and looking likely to line out for Tir Chonaill in Sunday’s Ulster SFC semi-final against Down in Clones.
The Gaoth Dobhair full-back was forced to retire due to a back injury from the action 20 minutes into the quarter-final win over Derry, sparking speculation that he might not start against the Mournemen.
“Neil is back in training and so are the other lads too, like Jamie Brennan and Michael Langan who came off the last day, so we are looking forward to Sunday,” said boss Declan Bonner.
A fully fit McGee (inset) will be vital to Donegal’s chances as he would probably be pitted against Down’s danger man Connaire Harrison, who caused loads of problems for Monaghan’s Drew Wylie in last year’s Ulster semi-final.
In McGee’s absence, Stephen McMenamin would be an option on the edge of the square and Bonner could also drop Frank McGlynn or Caolan Ward to sweep in front of the high-fielding Harrison.
Corner-forward Jamie Brennan is flying fit to start after suffering a slight strain against Derry.
The news is not as promising for squad player Marty Reilly, who will not be fit to start even if Donegal reach the Ulster final.
The Sean MacCumhaill’s player damaged ligaments in his toes a few weeks ago and is back in training, but June 24 would be a bit too soon for him. Martin McElhinney is in a similar position.
Otherwise, Donegal are reporting a clean bill of health against another potential banana skin in Down.
Their opponents were in last year’s Ulster final and will hold no fear of Declan Bonner’s men.
“The one thing about Down is come Championship they are a different animal,’’ says Bonner.
“They can set up defensively, but they are also good going forward and Connaire Harrison, Caolan Mooney, Conor Maginn and Kevin McKernan offer loads of threat. They will pose a major threat and we will have to be better all around the park defensively. That is an area we have been working on.
“In the League we went toe-to-toe with Dublin and Kerry, but there are different scenarios in the Championship and we have been working on our own game.
“The other thing about Down is that they have that pedigree come Championship and they are very dangerous and are capable of scoring goals.”
When asked if Fermanagh’s shock win over Monaghan was a case of “shocks over” Bonner replied: “We have to be prepared for any game in the Ulster Championship no matter who it is.
“Every game should be treated as an Ulster final because the day you don’t prepare is the day you will come unstuck.”
Bonner refuses to listen to speculation that, with Monaghan out of the way, there is an Ulster title waiting for Donegal.
“I don’t even listen to that. There are no easy Ulster titles and we are not looking past Down,” he added.
“The players know that we have a huge challenge this weekend and we have got to set up properly and be ready for the challenge that Down will bring. There will be 15 players starting and six players coming off the bench and they will all be giving 110 per cent for the jersey.”