WITH Donegal’s Championship joust against Down only 15 days out, Declan Bonner will take no chances in Saturday’s Division 1 semi-final against Dublin.
Donegal are in the peculiar position of knowing that they won’t contest a League final, regardless of the outcome this weekend at Kingspan Breffni Park.
Due to their involvement in the preliminary round of the Ulster Championship, Donegal won’t be able to take part in a League final, even if they defeat the six-in-a-row All-Ireland champions Dublin.
The hamstring injury that forced him out of last month’s draw against Monaghan means Michael Murphy will be in the stands.
“He is very close to be honest and we will have him ready for championship,” Bonner insisted.
“There will be lads missing but at the same time we aim to be competitive against a strong Dublin team. We have become used of lads not getting through sessions and we just have to wait now to get over the next two sessions to see what we have but there will be a strong team going out.”
Neil McGee was due to start the final Division 1 North game against Armagh, but pulled up in the warm-up.
Bonner explained that the full-back was inhibited by an old back injury, but expects the Gaoth Dobhair man to face the Dubs.
Odhrán McFadden-Ferry may also come into the frame to bolster a rearguard that has appeared worryingly leaky at times in the last month.
McFadden-Ferry has been back in training with Donegal since returning from a six-month tour of duty in Lebanon with the Irish Army.
Bonner said: “He is not far away. He has missed a lot of football and he has not played at inter-county level for over a year so he is just getting back up to speed again.
“He has had a couple of good sessions now and he is getting there gradually. It is just trying to get up to match sharpness. If any team is going to test you out it is going to be Dublin but he is in good shape.”
Forward Jamie Brennan missed the drawn encounters with Monaghan and Armagh, but Bonner reported that the Bundoran man ‘is not far away’.
Andrew McClean, though, will not be fit in time for Saturday’s game and is in a race against the clock for the Down game.
Kieran Gillespie, who has been beset by injury woe and has not played since 2019, is back training, but Bonner is loathe to take any chance with the Gaoth Dobhair defender.
Bonner said: “We are just taking him gradually, he has been training these past couple of weeks with us. It is going to be step by step. Will we see him in the shirt this year? I just don’t know. We will have to see how the sessions go but he will be playing football this year, there is no doubt about it but again we have got to be very, very careful.”