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MacHale confident of pipping McNulty to overall title

Will it be a straight shoot-out between Gareth MacHale and Tim McNulty for overall honours in the Topaz Donegal international this weekend?

Will the younger MacHale repeat last year's victory or will Tim McNulty overcome the gremlins that have plagued his campaign this year and claim his first win of the year? Will Keith Cronin play a blinder and score a Group N victory in the EvoX?

MacHale is confident as he prepares, commenting: "I'm looking forward to it. The engine in my Focus is sorted. I think Donegal is raising the bar again with a town stage and the strength of the entry shows the popularity of the event."

On the other hand, McNulty is ready, having won in Cavan, as he gave his Subaru a shakedown after mechanical trouble denied him a well-deserved win in Killarney.

Will Alistair Fisher retain his lead in the Tarmac championship or will Aaron MacHale become the new leader at the end of the week? Whatever the outcome, the event will be enjoyed by a 70,000 crowd over the three days.

Two of the top seeds, Derek McGarrity and Sean Devine, are late withdrawals as is Philip Morrow, who was on the reserve list.

Cronin will be waiting to pounce should either of the top two hit trouble, but he will have to keep an eye as much on what is happening behind him as what is happening ahead. The British champion will have his work cut out to keep Tarmac championship leader Fisher, Jonny Greer and locals Paul Harris, Damien Tourish and Danny McBride at bay for Group N honours. Gary Jennings may be a late starter in the battle for Group N glory.

It would be a brave soul who would nominate a winner in the Modified Challenge from a roll call featuring Wesley Patterson, Manus Kelly, Phil Collins, Gary McPhillips, Rodney Wilton, Daniel McKenna, Declan Boyle, Camillus Bradley, Damien Gallagher, Eugene Ferry, Martin McGee and Killarney winner Barry Meade.

Robert Barrable aims to continue his winning ways in the Citroen Racing Trophy and expects Shane Buckley and reigning Citroen champion Adrian McElhinney to be his main rivals. Mark Donnelly will be a serious threat should he be elevated from the reserve list, but he would need about five late withdrawals to reach the start ramp.

Several family needle matches will feature throughout the field as the MacHale brothers, Gareth and Aaron, slug it out for overall honours. The Neville family go one better as father and son Pat and Anthony challenge each other in the main event, while daughter Niamh is now assured of a start in her Fiesta.