Donegal hurlers missing two key players for Wicklow clash
DONEGAL hurlers will be minus two of their top performers as they face Wicklow in a crunch clash in O'Donnell Park on Sunday.
Central defenders Danny Cullen and Stephen Gillespie have been ruled out for different reasons.
The game has come about a week too early for classy Cullen, while Gillespie is on his honeymoon.
They have already secured their Division 2B status for another season and a draw or a win would set them up for a semi-final slot.
“Danny is making good progress, but this game has come about a week too early for him and Stephen is on his honeymoon,” said boss Mickey McCann.
“But we rested Declan Coulter for the Conor McGurk final, which we were delighted to win, and Christopher McDermott should also be available.”
Cullen, Coulter, Gillespie and McDermott were all out for that impressive 5-28 to 0-21 win for McCann's men on a night when his young guns and Bernard Lafferty walked tall.
“It was nice to win the McGurk Cup especially after the heartbreak of last year against Down,” he added.
“It might be a pre-season competition, but it was a big game for our younger players with four key men absent. It was a big night for them, and a good performance and we will not be getting carried away, but it has given confidence to our young lads and they need the experience.
“It is also nice to get a cup and we are the first team apart from Antrim and Down to win it.
“It is nice to get a Donegal name on it and it was a really impressive display from us on the night.
“5-28 is impressive, but it will be a totally different set-up against Wicklow and the pitch was a bit shorter than normal, so that is partly why you tend to have more scores and UU hit 0-21.
“We had a good spread of scorers with Ritchie Ryan hitting 1-4 and Ruairi Campbell got 1-4 too. Ronan McDermott had 2-1 and Liam McKinney had about 0-6 from play and Gerry Gilmore hit 0-4.
“That does not happen too often. And we did it without the four boys which was a good achievement.”
The return of Coulter and Christopher McDermott is a big boost ahead of a tough Wicklow test.
“We are already safe for another year, which was our first objective. And if we win on Sunday, you
are probably looking at a semi-final spot,: he added.
“If we beat Tyrone in the final game we could end up in the semi-final no matter what happens in the Wicklow game or we could end up meeting Wicklow again as I expect Meath to come out on top of the division.
“The big thing for us is that we are staying in this division and anything else for us is a bonus.
“Tyrone have beaten us in the past two Nickey Rackard Cup matches so we own them one when they come Letterkenny in the last match.
“We beat Wicklow down in Aughrim last year and it was the first time we ever beat them. We had a lead of nine points and we saw it out by five points. But they are much stronger this year and have a new manager and have a number of quality players back as well.
“They will definitely be much stronger, and they have beaten Tyrone by a few points and London by seven or eight points so they are a good side.
“Andy O'Brien is a real classy player. Luke Evans was sent off against London so he is out, but they also have a very good free-taker.
“We have a lot of fires to put out and they are a big physical team so we will hope to use our youth and speed to keep it wide as Wicklow will be very good on the 50/50 balls and in the air as well. It will be up a level from last Thursday in Belfast so we will need to be up for the challenge.”