It is Donegal and Dublin once again when they go toe to toe this Saturday night in Croke park, in round two of the Allianz National Football League. (7 pm)
This will be their first meeting since last August’s All-Ireland semi-final and Donegal’s 3-14 to 0-17 victory that stunned the Dubs and got the football nation chattering.
Donegal, managed by Jim McGuinness back then, went into that Croke Park showdown as very much the underdogs against the high flying Dubs and the reigning All-Ireland champions.
But goals from Ryan McHugh, who ended the game with a personal tally of 2-2, and Colm McFadden set Donegal on their way to a huge upset and an All-Ireland showdown with Kerry.
The Kingdom had defeated Mayo,the night before in extra-time, in a replay in Limerick, in the other semi-final.
“That’s gone. Of course it was a great day for Donegal, but it’s gone. It was last year. It’s the same with the All-Ireland, it’s gone now too,” said Donegal captain Michael Murphy.
“Every day you go out, you have to prove yourself as a team and as an individual. Dublin will say the same, I’m sure.”
Donegal and Dublin had contrasting fortunes in last weekend’s opening round of games.
Donegal, just like they did in last year’s All-Ireland semi-final against Dublin, turned in a storming second half performance to put Derry to the sword in Ballybofey.
That game was on Saturday night, while on the following day Sunday, Dublin went down by two points to Cork,in Pairc Ui Rinn. Full-back Rory Carroll, Jack McCaffrey, Jonny Cooper, Cormac Costelloe and Eoghan O’Gara are the only members of the Dublin starting 15 from last year’s All-Ireland semi-final featured in last Sunday’s opener.
Kevin McManamon, Dean Rock, who scored 0-8 against the Leesiders, and Darren Day, who were all introduced from the bench last August, played in Cork.
Rory Gallagher, the new Donegal boss, on the other hand, fielded a very strong team for last weekend’s opener against Derry.
The Donegal side that defeated Derry, 1-15 to 0-12, in MacCumhaill Park was made up of nine of the starting team that lined out against the Dubs in the semi-final - Paul Durcan, Eamon McGee, Paddy McGrath, Karl Lacey, Neil Gallagher, Odhran MacNiallais, Ryan McHugh and Michael Murphy.
Christy Toye, Patrick McBrearty, Martin McElhinney, Darach O’Connor and Martin O’Reilly, who featured last weekend in the six point victory over Derry, all came on as replacements in the All-Ireland semi-final.
The word emerging from the Capital this week is that Jim Gavin is going to continue to experiment this weekend.
The team to face Donegal on Saturday night is expected to be very much along the lines of that which lost to Cork.
Rory Gallagher is expected to put his best foot forward again for Saturday’s showdown and is expected to name a similar team to that which bagged the full points against Derry.
This will give the men in green and gold an edge in experience and present Michael Murphy and company with the opportunity of taking the two points and another large step on the road to securing their top flight status.
PREVIOUS LEAGUE MEETINGS
Saturday night’s league meeting will be the 21st league game between the two counties with Dublin holding the upper hand with 12 victories to Donegal’s six with two games drawn.
One of those drawn games was the National League decider of 1993 while the quarter-final meeting between the previous year in Breffni Park is a game that will live long in the memory for the wrong reason - Dublin clinching victory with two goals in the last 90 seconds, 3-6 to 1-10.
The other draw between the counties was their most recent meeting in Ballybofey in April 2013 with Dublin snatching a late draw - Donegal 1-10, Dublin 0-13. That game also made headlines for the ‘bitegate affair’ when a Dublin player was accused of biting Patrick McBrearty.