GAA Football

Donegal's Ryan McHugh will miss Mayo clash but Karl Lacey may start for Donegal

Ryan McHugh will miss the closing stages of the Allianz Football League
Gerry McLaughlin

DONEGAL'S Ryan McHugh is definitely out of Sunday’s crunch Allianz Football League Division One clash against Mayo in Castlebar and also the Division One final the following weekend, should Donegal get there.

However, four-time Allstar Karl Lacey could be close to for his first start for the county since last summer. Lacey came on as a substitute against Monaghan last weekend and looked really keen.

He would be a natural replacement for the injured McHugh, but the only question mark is over his match fitness and it is unlikely that he would be able to finish 70 minutes given his lengthy absence from competitive action and a recurrence of niggly injuries.

“I won’t be available for Sunday, although the injury is not as bad as I thought at first,’’ said McHugh.

‘I went over on my ankle in Ballyshannon and while it was painful at the time, it is improving fairly rapidly.

“I am getting about with the aid of a crutch but hopefully that won’t be for too long.

“I had a scan on the ankle earlier this week and it seems that it is just a wee tear in a tendon.”

McHugh’s absence is a huge blow to Donegal on Sunday as he and team captain Michael Murphy have been stand-out performers for the past few years.

McHugh also has a habit of getting on the end of moves and finding the net, as Dublin discovered to their cost in 2014 and last year also.

Ryan made his debut in 2013 and this is his first absence from the squad.

“It is very frustrating, but just one of those things, but I will be at the match on Sunday shouting on the lads,’’ said McHugh.

“It is a very big game for Mayo too and they seem to be coming back to themselves after a good win over Tyrone last Sunday.

“We were not so good last week.

“We kicked far too many wides and just did not put Monaghan away.

“Overall our performance was just not good enough to come away with the points.

‘But often it is the matches that you don’t win that teach you the most about yourself.

“Mayo will be a very physical test for us but that is what you need to progress.”

Despite the talismanic McHugh’s absence, Donegal still have a great chance of reaching the League final.

“There are a lot of permutations which makes Sunday very interesting,’’ said McHugh.

‘But our main goal is always on the next game, the next ball and we have a very good squad ar present.

“There are a lot of good U21s coming through so it is a good mix and they have brought an extra dimension.”

It could be a very busy seven days for U21 stars like Eoghan Ban Gallagher, Kieran Gillespie, Cian Mulligan, Jamie Brennan, Michael Carroll and Michael Langan.

They could have three matches in seven days if Donegal qualify for the NFL final on Sunday.

Wednesday’s Ulster U21 semi-final against Cavan in Enniskillen was washed out, with the replay set for next Wednesday.

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