Hurling & Camogie

Donegal manager Mickey McCann hoping to go one better in Nickey Rackard Cup final clash with Mayo

The return of Ronan McDermott is huge boost for the Tír Chonaill side

Mickey McCann
Donegal manager Mickey McCann says last year's final defeat to Wicklow is a motivating factor as his side prepare to face Mayo in this season's decider (MARGARET McLAUGHLIN PICTURES / C)

Nickey Rackard Cup final Donegal v Mayo (Sunday, Croke Park, 4.15pm, live on Spórt TG4)

DONEGAL have been hugely boosted ahead of Sunday’s Nickey Rackard Cup final against Mayo by the return to action of former captain Ronan McDermott.

McDermott suffered a cruciate knee ligament injury in last year’s final defeat to Wicklow and was out of action for almost a year before returning to training in the past month.

McDermott came off the bench and scored 1-2 in Donegal’s final, dead-rubber, match against Louth a fortnight ago.

Delighted boss and fellow Burt clubman Mickey McCann confirmed that McDermott would be in the final 26 squad for Sunday afternoon’s Croke Park decider.

“Ronan is part of the squad, and it was just a question of getting as much game-time into him as we could,” said McCann.

“He got a half against Louth and trained well since and he will be a big part of the panel on Sunday and possibly coming off the bench for the last 20 minutes or so all being good, and he has recovered well from his injury.’'

Donegal have plenty of recent history with Sunday’s opponents, having already beaten them in this year’s Nickey Rackard, winning 0-21 to 0-13 in Letterkenny last month.

And they staged a great second-half comeback to win the 2020 Rackard decider between the sides, becoming the first county to win the competition on three occasions.

“That win in Letterkenny means nothing and it actually sets Mayo up well to improve and they just got over Roscommon [in their last group game],” said McCann.

“They certainly won’t lack motivation. But we know that there is another level in this Mayo team and they have played Christy Ring hurling and all of them are capable of stepping it up to another level.

“We are very wary of them as if they show up, they will be very hard to beat.

“That day in Letterkenny it was level for a long time but we put a 15-minute spell where we tacked on six points in a row and it was enough to get on top.

“We kept their forwards very quiet but doing that again is going to be very tough and they will know that, and it will be a 50/50 game.”

McCann added that Mayo has a potentially lethal forward line featuring Shane Boland, Liam Lavin, Adrian Phillips and Cormac Phillips, Eoin Delaney and Sean Regan.

“The Tooreen lads are top quality as well and have reached All-Ireland intermediate finals and they have ex-Burt and Donegal star Joe Boyle still playing – but I would not put him under pressure to give us some gen on Mayo.”

McCann says last year’s 1-20 to 3-12 final defeat to Wicklow is a huge motivating factor.

“For me personally it is a lot. It was a bad changing room to go into at the end, as at half-time we were in a good place,” he said.

“We left a few scores out there and we could have had a penalty when Ronan McDermott was hauled down in the square.

“We should have been further ahead but Wicklow’s strength in depth showed as they brought on quality fresh legs who made a difference.

“We were struggling with injuries to Declan Coulter, Daire O Maoileidigh, Bernard Lafferty and Ronan McDermott and Richie Ryan got injured during the game itself.

“Things went against us and, while Wicklow were good, the boys know that it was one we left behind.”