It’s Ulster semi-final time and Donegal have the capabilities to reach a third provincial final in a row.
Down had a somewhat unexpected victory against Derry and will understandably have some expectations after that success.
Their win at Celtic Park wasn’t overly surprising as even though Derry had won Division Two, it hadn’t been as strong as in recent years.
Donegal will probably be without Karl Lacey and Neil Gallagher, although the news is much better on Frank McGlynn, who is expected to return.
Martin McElhinney can be a good deputy for Gallagher in midfield, or can Ryan Bradley depending on what Jim McGuinness decides to do there.
Gallagher, though, will be a loss as he has now developed into one of the premier midfielders in the county, as was evident from his winning of an All-Star last year. He also has invaluable experience in the county jersey.
Lacey, obviously, will also be a big miss as he is a player with huge ability. You could even see in his cameo appearance against Tyrone just how important his presence is to the rest of the team.
It’s great to see McGlynn on the way back after a hamstring injury. He has been given a bit of a rest having missed Glenfin’s matches in the club championship over the last fortnight.
The only real I fear I have about Down is their capacity to score goals.
Brendan Coulter was a great servant to their county for years but nowadays I would question whether he should be starting or not.
He probably hasn’t the pace he had a few years ago and might be better served nowadays as an impact sub.
James McCartan will be glad to have Daniel Hughes back and Don Gordon, who did well against Donegal in the Ulster final last year.
The place they will struggle and the place we can really hurt them is in their full-back line.
We should try and get the ball in early to Michael Murphy, if that’s where he is employed, Colm McFadden and Patrick McBrearty.
For both club and county, where he laid on two goals against Tyrone, McBrearty has been excellent lately.
One thing we don’t want to be is complacent. In 1991, we reached an Ulster final and were looking to defend the Anglo-Celt Cup for the first time. Down were the opposition.
After hammering them in the Dr McKenna Cup and then in the National League in Ballyshannon, we would’ve been firm enough favourites that particular day and although Down weren’t great at the back, they beat us as they were very good up front.
McCartan, Ross Carr, Greg Blaney and Mickey Linden all formed part of a team that would go onto win the All-Ireland that same year.
Wins like that are part of the reason Down and their supporters have perhaps a little bit of a swagger and arrogance down the years.
It’s only three years ago since they went to Croke Park and knocked out then All-Ireland champions Kerry on the way to the final themselves. But they’ve really missed Marty Clarke since then.
But for me, for all the nice football they played against Derry, things will be at a different level against Donegal. It’ll be much more intense and McGuinness and Gallagher won’t let our guard slip this weekend.
I’m certain of that.
And let’s hope the Donegal U-21 hurlers can take home the Ulster Shield on Wednesday against Tyrone.
The best of luck to them.
Brian McEniff was in conversation with Alan Foley