Opportunities must be taken if Donegal to make final

Peter Campbell, Spor

Reporter:

Peter Campbell, Spor

Opportunities must be taken if Donegal to make final
Three years ago this month we travelled to Croke Park for an All-Ireland semi-final against the Dubs in similar circumstances to Sunday next.

Three years ago this month we travelled to Croke Park for an All-Ireland semi-final against the Dubs in similar circumstances to Sunday next.

It was our first semi-final in eight years and most supporters travelled more in hope than confidence.

On Sunday next, Donegal make the journey once more and even though there is great trust put in Jim McGuinness and his team, the loyal GAA followers of the county know that their side face the biggest test in the four-reign of the Glenties man.

Donegal are rank outsiders, much more so than even in 2011, but then apart from the All-Ireland final date with Mayo in 2012 (and Armagh this year), Donegal have never been favourites for any of their matches in Croke Park in the recent past.

That has never hindered Jim McGuinness and this bunch of Donegal players.

Back in 2011 in that much-talked about All-Ireland semi-final against Dublin, Donegal went ultra defensive and almost pulled off one of the biggest shocks in GAA history. But for an injury to Karl Lacey and Colm McFadden firing just over the crossbar early in the second half, the outcome could have been much different than the 0-8 to 0-6 win for the Dubs.

The scoreline is likely to be a little higher this weekend, but Donegal will be hoping to keep it fairly low.

Dublin have been notching up huge scorelines in their run to this All-Ireland final and are hot favourites, not just for this game, but to lift the Sam Maguire for back-to-back All-Irelands.

All of that will not matter a whit to Donegal boss, Jim McGuinness, who relishes the challenge of taking on a Dublin side believed to be invincible.

Much will depend on the health of his Donegal squad for the game. Karl Lacey has been troubled by a hamstring injury but is supposed to be back to full fitness, while there are also likely to be other niggles that have to be treated as part of the norm in the build up to any game.

For Donegal to compete against this talented Dublin side, every player will have to be at full tilt and concentration levels will have to be 100%.

This is not just for the 15 who start, but also for those who are likely to be brought into the action.

The need to stop Dublin scoring goals (which is their penchant) will be all important, as will the great need for Donegal to keep in touch with the Metropolitans on the scoreboard for the early part of the contest.

McGuinness will be planning to have Donegal matching their counterparts in the scoring stakes and hoping that they can get their third quarter surge working again.

It is highly likely that Donegal will need a goal sometime during the game, given that they will, more than likely play second fiddle to Dublin in the possession stakes. Dublin are likely to create more chances than Donegal as a result, but at the end of the day it will be the team that converts possession into scores that will win.

Donegal will put the Dublin players under pressure -of that, there is no doubt. But in order to win the match, they will have to convert a high percentage of their chances created. Against Armagh, they were a little off colour in that regard. Nothing short of near perfection will suffice on Sunday.

If they can do that, and limit the Dublin attack, then we will be well on our way to another All-Ireland final.