Do or die in Breffni
You can use all the clichés in the dictionary and they would not adequately describe the importance of Saturday evening’s Ulster Senior Championship semi-final clash for Donegal.
They are facing their nemesis in the form of Monaghan, who have won two out of the three most recent clashes, and hold the upper hand over Donegal for quite some time.
The bookies have Monaghan as marginal favourites - evens as against 11/10 for Donegal. I have argued in the past that they are rarely wrong. They have Dublin at 1/50 to beat Meath!
It is certainly a defining game for Donegal as they continue to search for that elusive Ulster title under the management of Rory Gallagher. For a large number of the panel, it is a final throw of the dice and they will want to give it their best shot on Saturday evening in Kingspan Breffni Park.
At this stage we don’t know the make-up of the Donegal team but then we are unlikly to know that until 6.40 on Saturday evening anyway.
Donegal showed in patches against Fermanagh that they were ready for any challenge and if they can sustain those periods, then they have a great chance of making it past Monaghan.
They know that they have to keep Conor McManus quiet and Kieran Hughes will, more than likely, be pushed up to keep company with Eamon McGee.
However, it will be Donegal’s ability to stop the supply and, even more importantly, to be precise in the tackle that will be vital to their chances.
An awful lot of things can go right and just as many can go wrong on any given day. The game has a relatively new face as referee in Ciaran Brannigan of Down. Donegal have not encountered him in a championship game and, indeed, in very few games. It is a big game for him and, hopefully, we will not be talking about him after the game.
Monaghan are an abrasive side, who are always up for a fight, so it might be wise for Donegal to be firm but try to bring their footballing skills to the fore. Conor McManus apart, Donegal have the better footballers and they should not allow themselves to be drawn into a dogfight.
With Neil McGee suspended Donegal are not getting good press as a result of the Fermanagh red card, yet nothing seems to have been made of the punch on Eamon McGee which was clearly shown on TV on that Sunday evening. It seems there are different rules for different players!
Even without Neil McGee, there is still enough talent and battling qualities in the Donegal squad to get over the line.
There won’t be much in it (there never is), but if Donegal can break the Monaghan line for a goal or two, then they can advance for a clash with Tyrone or Cavan in the final.
It would seem that Cavan may have missed the boat, but yet if they can regain belief, they have plenty of young talent to give Tyrone a run for their money in the replay.
Good luck to Minors
Good luck also to the Donegal minors on Saturday evening as they also take on Monaghan with an Ulster minor final place at stake. Just like the seniors, there might be only a kick of a ball between these two sides, who needed extra-time to separate them in the Ulster Minor League semi-final.
A similar result would put a smile on manager Shaun Paul Barrett’s face on Saturday evening around 6.20.
It is important that Donegal supporters get to Kingspan Breffni Park, Cavan, early to cheer on these young charges. They deserve it, having already lifted the Ulster Minor League.