Friday 21 October 2016

Donegal primed to launch serious summer challenge

NIALL MORGAN and MacCumhail Park just don't seem to like each other.

Two years ago, he was booed and jeered all the way up the pitch and back down again as the Tyrone's 'keeper's masterful place-kicking accuracy deserted him, to the eternal detriment of his team.

A couple of weeks later, he was gone for a year with a cruciate injury. Then, back in March, Morgan picked up a groin strain against Donegal back in Ballybofey and now, as a result, he misses Tyrone's biggest Championship contest in some time tomorrow.

His influence on the Tyrone team as a shot-stopper, sweeper and free-taker is huge and they'll miss him badly, with Mickey O'Neill stepping in to deputise in his absence. Seán Cavanagh is fit, however, after a knee injury.

Quite how fit - having undergone an operation on said joint just last month - we'll find out tomorrow, as the Ulster SFC gives us the big Championship throw-in for which we've all pined these last few years.

Doubtless, Donegal have held the upperhand over Mickey Harte's Tyrone these past few silver-gleaned years and there's not too much reason floating around to expect any immediate change to that particular status quo.

Donegal manager Rory Gallagher (inset) has tweaked, nipped and tucked the team that Jim built but even since last September, the likes of Paddy McBrearty, Ryan McHugh and Odhrán MacNiallais have taken on extra on-field responsibility and as a result, Donegal look just as robust as they were in their All-Ireland winning pomp, only with more ball-playing, penetrative options on the pitch.

It would, given the circumstances, be one of the great Harte coups to chissel out a victory in Ballyfofey, but it's not likely.

ODDS: Donegal 1/2, Draw 15/2, Tyrone 9/4

VERDICT: Donegal

ULSTER SFC: TYRONE v DONEGAL, ballybofey, tom, 3.30 (live rté2)

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