Former Dublin star Ciaran Whelan feels that Donegal are good enough to overturn Kerry in the All-Ireland quarter-final and is looking forward to a fascinating duel on Sunday next in Croke Park.
The big midfielder was in Donegal last weekend as part of the Celebrity Bainisteoir filming at Naomh Brid. Hours after the draw paired Donegal with Kerry, he gave his reaction and his admiration for how much progress Donegal have made in such a very short time.
“I’ve been very, very, impressed with Donegal. Last year their game was quite one-dimensional but the system that Jim McGuinness has implemented is quite admirable to a certain degree and all the players have really bought into it.
“And the thing you are getting from Donegal is consistency, that they are able to do week in, week out and a lot of other teams are struggling with it.
“Donegal are consistent and it’s that that makes them very, very dangerous. Any team that plays against Donegal have to adapt their own game to try and counteract the Donegal style. So it Donegal who dictate the terms of the game and that’s their greatest strength and it’s what makes them very difficult to beat,” said Ciaran.
The draw which has pitted Donegal against the Kingdom will be the acid test for the Tir Chonaill boys, but it is one that Whelan feels is made for them.
“The real test begins. I suppose people would say that they haven’t beaten any of the big teams. They were probably unlucky not have beaten Dublin last year, but if you take stock of where they were last year and how they have kicked on and improved this year, they are certainly in a good position.
Certainly you have to start somewhere and they kinda remind me somewhere of the Tyrone team back in 2003 and I think they will make life difficult for Kerry next weekend.
“Kerry are slightly, not in the same position as they were five or six years ago in terms of their strength in depth. I think Donegal will make it very difficult for them. Kerry have got their confidence back and you saw that over the last couple of weekends. They can certainly rise to it on the big occasion, but I just think the system that Donegal are playing is very, very effective and difficult to counteract and I personally have a view that they will turn Kerry over,” he said.
Whelan feels that the draw has been very kind to Dublin, who he feels are in the weaker side of the last eight, while the big guns have all been paired with Donegal.
“It will be a big test and the way the draw has worked out, they are on the difficult side of the draw. If they do get over Kerry there are more stumbling blocks ahead with potentially Cork and you would think Dublin, if they perform to their ability, will get to an All-Ireland final. So they are on the tough side of the draw.
“To win the All-Ireland it’s going to see them beat good teams but I feel they are in a good position going into the next weekend. So are Kerry and they thrive when they get to Croke Park.
“Will Jimmy McGuinness adapt their game plan? Will he more defensive because it is Kerry? It will be interesting to see, but it’s a fascinating game and one that everyone is looking forward to.
“I think this draw has really kicked off the summer. It’s the last eight of the All-Ireland series now. The draw may be a little lop-sided but it makes for intriguing games over the next few weeks,” said Ciaran.