Inishowen fans are gearing up for the All Ireland Semi Final

COME ON DONEGAL!. . . . .Young members of Moville GAA Club get into 'Supporter Training' for Sunday's All-Ireland semi-final clash with Dublin. 2608JM63
COME ON DONEGAL!. . . . .Young members of Moville GAA Club get into 'Supporter Training' for Sunday's All-Ireland semi-final clash with Dublin. 2608JM63

With what is one of the most highly anticipated sporting match in the county in almost 20 years, Inishowen fans are gearing up for to watch their beloved Donegal take on old rivals, Dublin, in the All Ireland Semi Final in Croke Park on Sunday.

With almost five thousand fans from the peninsula expected to travel to the capital for the game, local clubs are arranging buses and other forms of transport to take fans down in their droves to see the action first hand.

Although the Dubs will undoubtedly go into the game as favourites the player in Green and Gold will be fighting for their lives for their first place to play in an All Ireland Final since winning the Sam Maguire in 1992.

But no matter what happens on Sunday, the year 2011 will live long in the memory . We have Jim McGuinness and a very hard-working bunch of footballers to thank for putting the smile back on so many Donegal people with an unforgettable summer.

Everywhere you go the talk is about Donegal. Early in the summer some supporters were giving out about the style of play; some even threatening to stay at home. Now, especially after the manner of the win against Kildare, the mood is upbeat.

The biggest exodus to Croke Park since 1992 will take place this weekend, testimony to the belief which the Donegal side has engendered in the faithful, despite the difficult economic times. Fund-raising has become much easier; Golf Classics are sold out.

‘Donegal 2011’ just gets better and better. The clamour for tickets still goes on as we go to press, something that has never happened before for a semi-final.

Donegal-Dublin games hold a special appeal. Sunday’s is probably very different from past clashes with two managers that have kept their thoughts to themselves.

Pat Gilroy has managed the hype in Dublin better than any other manager in recent times. There is not a whimper from the camp; no indications that they are taking the Donegal challenge lightly.

Jim McGuinness took Donegal away to Inishowen for the weekend and sampled the waters of Lough Foyle.

In times gone by MacCumhaill Park would be a hive of activity on a Tuesday night before a big game with the assembled press mixing with the players. Those days are gone. Everything is behind closed doors now with nothing left to chance.

The Donegal team is not likely to be released until Friday at the earliest. The management team have to decide on the fitness of Paddy McGrath and Michael Hegarty, but they do so in the knowledge that they have the strongest panel possible available to them - with Leo McLoone, Eamon McGee, Christy Toye, Dermot Molloy, Kevin Rafferty, Martin McElhinney all pushing for a starting place.

The midfield selection will take up much of the pondering, while corner-back and corner-forward seem to the other two positions under the spotlight. If McGrath is not fully recovered then Eamon McGee is a natural replacement and would not weaken the defence, given his display when coming in against Kildare.

Assuming that Michael Hegarty is passed fit, the management will have to make the decision as to whether they can accommodate Colm McFadden, Michael Murphy and Patrick McBrearty. David Walsh could well be retained from the quarter-final for his workrate, but at the expense of who?

Those are the main discussion points which will dominate groups of Donegal supporters when they gather in groups this week.

Dublin are likely to be unchanged from their spectacular win over Tyrone, which means that Donegal have to be ready for an onslaught, probably from the throw-in.

Whatever way the teams line out it is likely that there will be a lot of homes in Donegal where the heart rates will have significant increases in what is the most important game for the county’s GAA followers in 19 years.