We had a shock of sorts in the Connacht football championship last Saturday evening when a highly fancied Roscommon team was beaten by an impressive Sligo outfit in Markievicz Park to reach the provincial final on July 19th, the same day that Donegal will probably play Monaghan in the Ulster final.
I’m afraid that’s where the fairytale for Sligo will end though. Mayo, going for five Connacht titles in-a-row, will be Sligo’s opponents and will surely have too much for the Yeats County. Still it was a happy Reid household last weekend since my wife hails from Sligo city. I bet you never heard Sligo being called a city before but the Sligo people like to refer to this town as such. The Connacht final will be a big day out for the people of the city and the county and fortunately for them their next big event will be the Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann in August.
I watched the delayed coverage of the Monaghan and Fermanagh game on television last Sunday evening and I thought that Monaghan struggled for long periods to get to grips with their opponents. Armagh and Fermanagh contested this year’s Division 3 National football league final and I’d say there’s little difference between these two teams.
Donegal swamped Armagh and Monaghan eventually did the same with Fermanagh. Monaghan’s experience playing from Division 1 was very evident last Sunday. They were physically stronger and were able to manufacture scores much easier than their opponents.
Donegal have not yet reached the final but by this time next week I’m confident that we will be preparing for a dogged affair against the Farney men. It is encouraging to note that Donegal have a fully fit squad to select from. It was disappointing to learn of Michael Boyle’s departure from the Donegal set up since Michael is a top class goalkeeper and most of all a top class man. Undoubtedly this affable and jovial character will be missed by everyone involved within the squad. I hope that all goes well for him in Boston.
On the plus side it is great to have Declan Walsh back on board. I appreciate that Donegal will take nothing for granted against Derry this Saturday evening but I really cannot see us slipping up. Derry beat a very average Down team by the narrowest of margins to advance to this meeting with Donegal. They lack the serious intensity to bother this very well drilled Donegal team.
Even our national pundits and experts are raving about Donegal this year. And isn’t it about time? Dublin and Kerry will always be mentioned in terms of serious contenders for the All-Ireland crown but now Donegal has is a new word introduced into to their vocabulary.
Kildare will march into Croke Park this Sunday for a meting with the All-Ireland favourites Dublin. Kildare have failed miserably in recent times and the last time they caused a stir was back in Mick O’Dwyer’s time in charge.
If the Kildare footballers could play as well as Christy Moore can sing then they’d be in business. I went to see Christy last weekend in the Millennium Forum and he was in fine fettle. He’s a proud Kildare man and wasn’t too brazen about Kildare’s chances against the Dubs on Sunday. I’d love to see a close encounter that would make for an interesting game. I fear for Kildare though. They also needed a replay to beat Laois who, by the way, were stunned by Antrim last weekend. Kildare will probably provide Dublin with their stiffest test in the Leinster championship though. Unfortunately, we will only be concerned with the margin of victory for Dublin when all is said and done.
And so the Donegal steamroller moves on to Clones and a meeting with neighbours Derry this Saturday evening. It will be good to get a run out in Clones since this is where the Ulster final will take place. These two teams know each other quite well having played each numerous times in recent years. Derry struggled against Down and it was interesting to note that it was their older players namely Eoin Bradley, Mark Lynch and Fergal Doherty who did most of the damage that day. But as the game wore on these players wore down and faded from the game in the final quarter.
Derry may have to take a Lough Swilly bus or two out of retirement and park them up in front of goal if they are to have any chance of beating Donegal.
Our minor team is also on course to do great things this year. They will open proceedings in Clones on Saturday evening. Get the dinner in the morning and pack the sangwiches into the boot and head off early. It’s great to have so much to look forward to. Dun na nGall Abu!