All of the championship football games went to form last weekend including Donegal’s easy victory over Armagh. The difference between these two Ulster teams was stark from the outset as Donegal toyed with their opponents throughout the first half. This game was over as a contest after 10 minutes.
I really liked the way Donegal took control of this game and how easily we manufactured scores. Irrespective of what type of opposition a team has to face, the favourites still have to perform. Donegal’s powerful first half performance left Armagh with a mountain to climb and it was obvious that Armagh was never going to mount any serious challenge in the second period.
It’s great to see that the lads had never to get into top gear at any stage of this game. Donegal have come a long way in recent years and it is a credit to everyone concerned especially the players to be at such a competitive level.
I watched Armagh play Fermanagh in the Division 3 National League final earlier this year and I thought that the standard of football was average to say the least. Armagh manager Kieran McGeeney has an awful lot of work to do if his team are to contest future Ulster finals. They will be playing in Division 2 next year which will be a start.
Next up for Donegal is Derry in the Ulster semi final on Saturday week. The good news for Donegal is that Derry will not be able to handle our team either but they will provide a stiffer test. To be brutally honest, one has to look further ahead to the Ulster final when Donegal will play the winners of this Sunday’s game between Monaghan and Fermanagh.
You don’t have to be an expert to figure out the winner here! Though Monaghan will have home advantage in the Ulster final, I believe that this team are going backwards since their victory over a tired Donegal team in the 2013 final.
One may think that I’m being presumptuous as I forecast how this championship will turn out. As stated last week, we now have an elite group of teams who have surpassed the rest and it is only the teams within this group that have a realistic chance of vying for the provincial titles and then the ultimate prize of All-Ireland glory. It is not those teams’ faults for progressing and raising the standards. It is up to the rest to catch up.
In hurling there has been an elite group of teams for years and only the championship will always be contested between these few teams for the foreseeable future. The difference is that the hurling championship has been graded where the weaker teams get their chance to taste glory. We have the Christy Ring and Nicky Rackard Cups for second and third tier teams respectively. In respect of football, a solution must be found to our current championship format.
It is not Donegal’s concern as we must concentrate on bigger days ahead. Donegal will surely play in the All-Ireland quarter-finals and most likely will progress to the semi-final.
Out of four teams left at that stage anything could happen and yes we have a very realistic chance of winning the All-Ireland title too. The reality is that Donegal are still only at the semi-final stage of their provincial championship yet. But you see where I’m going with this. Galway huffed and puffed against Mayo last Sunday and made Mayo work for their victory. Still Mayo were a much stronger team and their power was very much evident when it mattered.
Roscommon will put up a different type of challenge but I expect Mayo to win yet another title at their ease. Down south the cute hoors from Kerry and Cork will sit in the long grass and wait. In Leinster, Dublin have the title signed sealed and delivered.
The probability is that Donegal will play Kerry in the All-Ireland semi-final and that Dublin will play Mayo in the other semi-final. A Donegal and Dublin final is on the cards.
Of course we have a few games to play before that but in all reality Rory Gallagher and his team have their sights set on Croke Park for the end of September. Last year’s defeat to Kerry is still very much a motivating factor for our lads. Put it this way, it will take a very good team to beat Donegal. How many very good teams are out there? Not many. I could count them on my left hand and two of my fingers on that hand are “mangled”. Kerry, Cork and Dublin. Take your pick.
These are great times for Donegal football. Let us not forget our minor team who will play Derry in the Ulster semi-final as a curtain raiser to the senior game. It is going to be a long summer!