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'He snapped his ankle in training. It's a massive blow, he would relish Croke Park'

Kevin Cassidy on the devastating injury suffered by Donegal star Eoghan Ban Gallagher.

13 MONTHS AFTER Paddy McBrearty’s torn cruciate derailed their 2018 All-Ireland bid, Donegal latest pursuit of the Sam Maguire has been rocked with the news that Eoghan Ban Gallagher suffered a broken ankle in training on Wednesday night. 

Eoghan Ban Gallagher Donegal defender Eoghan Ban Gallagher. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

The flying wing-back was in the running for an All-Star after enjoying a brilliant season but he looks set to miss the remainder of the season.

It’s a crushing blow for Declan Bonner’s side, who have been talked up as the main pretenders to Dublin’s throne after their fine form this summer.

“He snapped his ankle (Wednesday) night in training,” says former Donegal star Kevin Cassidy.

“Obviously it’s a massive blow for us. He’s been doing brilliantly up to this point but he’s the kind of player who would relish Croke Park with the spaces. And his speed is key to our counter-attack, so he’s going to be a massive loss.”

Cassidy believes his Gaoith Dobhair clubmate Daire Ó Baoill is the man who will most likely replace Gallagher on the half-back line.

“You’re probably looking at the likes of Daire Ó Baoill to come in to replace him. Similar type players but Eoghan has got slightly more experience so he will be a massive loss for this weekend and obviously for the rest of the year.

“Maybe if you’re looking at a Dublin or a Kerry they can easily replace these guys. Our squad is strong but it wouldn’t be overly strong. We’re lucky that we have Daire to come in.

“We’re also a wee bit unlucky that Kieran Gillespie, who’d be a natural centre-half back is probably two or three weeks away yet. So it’s not ideal but it is what it is and we’ll just have to deal with it this weekend and see what happens.”

PHOTO-2019-07-18-19-48-39 Kevin Cassidy was speaking at NOW TV's Super 8’s preview event.

Donegal defeated Meath by 2-19 to 1-13 in the opening round of the Super 8s last weekend. Earlier this week, Royals coach Colm Nally remarked that “are the closest team I’ve ever seen to a one-man team.”

“Michael Murphy was getting scores, then he was in the middle catch the balls and then at the end he was clearing the ball off the line,” he told the We Are Meath podcast.

“So I mean if you put him in our team, I think you’d see a different result.” 

Cassidy, who won an Ulster title with Murphy as his captain in 2011, says that assertion is “unfair” on the rest of the Donegal team. 

“It’s probably true in one sense but it’s unfair to the other lads. Michael’s a once in a lifetime player, he can play anywhere and he does play anywhere for us.

“He’s probably told to stay in the square but if he sees things are not happening he’ll go out and make it happen.

“In that sense it probably is a one-man team but Michael will be the first to tell you, what makes him tick is if you close him down, you might double-team him, some other guy will step up to the mark.

“It would be a difference if you just take him out of the game and the other lads don’t really step it up. They kind of know in Donegal that some man is going to be left free and then the onus is on him then to drive the thing forward.

“It’s easy now after seeing him in the flesh they probably think what he contributes to Donegal as one man, but listen, on the training pitch as a leader, as a sort of a manager of those players, he is unbelievable.”

Padraic Harnan tackles Michael Murphy Michael Murphy fields a ball against Meath. Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

Donegal face Kerry in Croke Park on Sunday in a game where victory would virtually assure the winners of a place in the All-Ireland semi-finals. 

Kerry were impressive in their 10-point beating of Mayo in Killarney but are looking to improve their record at Croke Park. The Kingdom lost to Mayo on Jones’ Road in the Division 1 final in March, while they lost there to Galway in the Super 8s last year.

“Sunday’s game against Kerry, we probably don’t need to win it,” says Cassidy.

“It would be nice to win it but I think we’ll learn a lot more out of that game, even if we lose. Our lads, we’re up and coming. If we manage to beat Kerry, we’ll probably go through, everyone will be talking us up and you might get stung in a semi-final.

“But a good performance against Kerry, going to Castlebar and if we manage to dog it out there, then you’re in with the big boys. There’s two big tests to come and it’s hard to say where we’re at at the minute until we play these two big teams.”

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Pictured at the NOW TV Super 8’s preview event were former Kerry star Kieran Donaghy six-time All-Ireland winner and former Dublin footballer Paul Flynn, Donegal great Kevin Cassidy and former Tyrone sharpshooter Owen ‘Mugsy’ Mulligan.

GAA fans can watch exclusive Sky GAA fixtures instantly and without a contract via NOW TV, the TV streaming service which gives sports lovers access to all eleven Sky Sports channels from as little as €10. For more information see www.nowtv.com.

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Kevin O'Brien

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