Despite losing our last four National Football League games, Donegal have consolidated their position as one of the top four teams in the country. The scores which Donegal amassed in the first three games ensured that we went through on points difference ahead of Mayo, Cork and Monaghan.
The fact that Monaghan needed to win last Sunday would have been a huge motivating factor for this particular game. We now look forward to a semi final meeting with Dublin this weekend. It’s great to get back to Croke Park especially to play against Dublin.
With the league campaign over for most teams there will be a shift in focus towards the championship. The extra competitive game for Donegal will stand us in good stead. We have plenty to work on but plenty to look forward to. We are not far away.
Losing our last four games is disappointing. Perhaps if we hadn’t won our first three league games and accumulated such a high scoring average our recent performances may have been played in a more urgent manner. There’s no denying that subconsciously players can take the foot off the pedal. The pressure was off.
This Sunday Donegal will face Dublin once again. I thought that at times we played too defensively against the Dubs. Perhaps things will change for this encounter. Question marks remain over their defence especially their full-back line. Sure they look great going forward but we rarely tested them defensively. I feel that we have nothing to lose except a league semi-final.
But who will remember league titles in the course of history and even more importantly when the championship reaches fever pitch in August. Make no doubt about it, both Donegal and Dublin will be there along with a handful of others.
In respect to Ulster it seems that there will be three main contenders for the title; Donegal, Tyrone and Monaghan. Because Cavan secure promotion to the top flight last Sunday they too will see themselves as prospective challengers. I still believe that either Donegal or Tyrone will win the provincial title.
Our U-21 team should have beaten Tyrone in the Ulster semi-final as team manager Declan Bonner said himself. They are a very talented bunch of players which augurs well for Donegal football. Tyrone, the reigning All-Ireland U-21 champions, ensures that their county’s future prospects look bright as well.
There isn’t much between Donegal and Tyrone at senior level at the present time and I believe that these two teams look set to dominate Ulster football for the foreseeable future.
Donegal lost out to Monaghan last Sunday by the narrowest of margins. I believe that Monaghan are still lacking a few players which would enable their team to push on and become a serious threat when the business end of the season arrives. They too will rattle Ulster but their reliance on Conor McManus is all too evident.
Armagh were relegated last Sunday which is a setback for the Orchard County. Like Down, these two counties have failed to keep apace with the demands for the modern game. I watched Down playing recently on television. They looked slow, unfit and unenthusiastic. They are a shadow of the team that I played against in the early nineties.
Derry under new manager Damian Barton are going through a period of transition. It’s difficult to see Derry making a serious impression either threat. Fermanagh have probably been the most improved Ulster team in recent years. Everybody likes Fermanagh since they are always the underdogs. It would be fantastic to see them make the breakthrough but unfortunately they lack the necessary talent to do so. Although Antrim was promoted last Sunday they are way off the mark in terms of competing with the big guns of Ulster football.
The door is open once again for Donegal who have the talent and the experience to take on any team in Ireland. I feel that our recent league form does the team an injustice. We should not read too much into these recent defeats. Irrespective of the outcome on Sunday, Donegal will bounce back in the championship where it matters.
Keep the Faith!