Donegal, the reigning All-Ireland and Ulster champions, put their Ulster crown on the line next weekend when they go head to head with Down.
It is Jim McGuinness versus James McCartan once again as the teams lock horns for the third time inside 12 months in Breffni Park, which is a repeat of last July’s Ulster final. They also met in the Allianz National League season just gone, back in February, in Ballybofey. Donegal won both games, in convincing fashion.
A Frank McGlynn goal in the middle of the second half finally put daylight between the sides as Donegal emerged 2-18 to 0-13 victors to capture the Anglo Celt Cup back-to-back for the first time.
Thenin their MacCumhaill Park league meeting, Donegal turned in a storming second half performance to come from 0-4 to 0-5 down to win by five points, 0-12 to 0-7.
Both Donegal and Down have played a game in the championship so far, and both have turned in performances to raise expectations level among their respective supporters.
Chasing a three in-a-row Ulster championships, Donegal played like All-Ireland champions, as they put Tyrone to the sword in Ballybofey at the end of May.
Goals from Colm McFadden - in the first half - and championship rookie Ross Wherity, in the second half, were the key scores in a hotly contested encounter, as Donegal won 2-10 to 0-10.
Goals were big scores, too, in Down’s 2-17 to 1-15 first round victory over Derry, in Celtic Park, on the June Bank Holiday weekend.
Donal O’Hare and Mark Poland scored the goals as Down came from four points down at half-time to score 2-8 to Derry’s 0-5 in the second half, in one the best games in this year’s championship.
And no more than Donegal’s win over Tyrone, who were pipped by the highly rated Dublin, in the Division One Allianz League final, Down’s second half demolition of Derry was impressive.
The Oak Leaf men went into that game as favourites on the back of a good Division Two Allianz League run and final victory over Westmeath.
Speaking after his team’s Celtic Park victory, James McCartan said his side would relish the opportunity to make up for last year’s Ulster final defeat.
Donegal go into the game without All- Star midfielder Neil Gallagher and Jim McGuinness and Rory Gallagher were also planning this weekend at their training camp in Downings, to be without 2012 Footballer of Year Karl Lacey.
Gallagher has been ruled out for two to three weeks while Lacey, who underwent minor knee surgery the week before last, has also lost his race to be fit in time for the game.
But with Frank McGlynn and Anthony Thompson back in training and fit again, the champions have everybody else.