Donegal all set to travel in numbers for do-or-die qualifier

Donegal County Board officials have warned the GAA that demand will vastly outstrip supply for Saturday’s qualifier against Laois in Carrick-on-Shannon.

The All-Ireland champions took an estimated 17,000 supporters to St Tiernach’s Park in Clones for their 0-13 to 0-7 Ulster final loss on Sunday against Monaghan and have an adult membership in the county of 12,498. But thousands will be disappointed this Saturday as Sean MacDiarmada Park in Leitrim can only cater for 15,000.

“We’re simply not going to have enough tickets,” said Donegal GAA secretary Aodh Máirtín O’Fearraigh yesterday. “We still haven’t got our official allocation but we would expect a large crowd to travel to Carrick-on-Shannon on Saturday evening. The Slattery Report took the capacity down to 9,300 there but it’s up again after work was carried out.

“Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with the venue but if you look at a possible allocation, whatever it is, it won’t be enough. We have raised a few concerns and are waiting on clarification on a number of issues from Croke Park.

“I don’t know why Breffni Park in Cavan or St Tiernach’s Park in Clones wasn’t considered. For the GAA, the decision they have made to go with Carrick-on-Shannon doesn’t make sense financially. I’m sure there will be good interest in Laois too, playing the All-Ireland champions, after their win over Wexford on Saturday.”

Donegal have never met Laois in the championship before and will almost certainly be without the services of sweeper Mark McHugh, who was replaced after only nine minutes on Sunday.

McHugh was suffering with a dead leg following an accidental collision with Stephen Gollogly and picked up concussion having hit his head off the ground in the incident.

The 22-year-old travelled home with the Donegal panel on Sunday night but was taken to Letterkenny General Hospital and spent the last two nights there with concussion. He will most likely be replaced on Saturday by his younger brother Ryan, whose second-half performance against Monaghan was one of the few positives for Jim McGuinness.

The Donegal manager will also have to make a decision on the availability of Karl Lacey and Neil Gallagher. Footballer of the Year Lacey played the full 70 minutes on Sunday, his first start since the All-Ireland final last September against Mayo.

Lacey recovered from a hip operation in December and keyhole surgery last month but was visibly lacking match fitness.

Gallagher missed the Ulster semi-final against Down with strained knee ligaments and started Sunday’s final on the bench.

With Monaghan dominating midfield and 0-4 to 0-0 up Gallagher was flung into the fray on 24 minutes and helped Donegal to some sort of foothold.


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