It would have been a travesty if Donegal did not win their Ulster semi-final replay against Monaghan last Saturday evening. Two very fortunate goals kept the Farney men in this game. The scoreline does not tell the complete story. Donegal were technically the more superior team and it was the correct result that Donegal won.
I believe that our discipline improved considerably from the first game, conceding much fewer frees inside our 45m line. Because of this Monaghan found difficulty in scoring from play. Paddy McGrath did another excellent marking job on Conor McManus. It’s encouraging to see Marty O’Reilly play such a pivotal role in Donegal’s success last Saturday. We need new talents coming to the fore and Marty has been a revelation this season.
I feel that Donegal have much more in the tank yet and will improve as the championship proceeds. The two intense encounters with Monaghan will serve to instil grit and determination into the lads, something that cannot be found on the training pitch. We are now left with the best two teams in Ulster contesting the final as Tyrone overran a gallant and improving Cavan outfit last weekend also.
Even those who don’t follow Gaelic football would have been able to forecast this final pairing. Our neighbours Tyrone have been the form team in Ulster this season having already won the Division 2 National League title. We all remember the first round clash between the two teams in Ballybofey last year where there was more wrestling than football. Tyrone will believe that they have improved since that meeting and will fancy their chances against Donegal. We have also improved from last year and have had a much more difficult run-in to the Ulster final.
Tyrone’s strength lies in their defensive structure but where they fall short is in their offensive department. They don’t have a consistent free taker or target man and I feel that they will find this a crucial factor against the stronger teams like Donegal. While Mickey Harte is a master tactician, Rory Gallagher is learning his trade but the latter possesses the better team man for man. Tyrone will be delighted to see Neil McGee back in the Donegal team as will the Donegal supporters.
Tyrone to date have played Derry and Cavan in the championship. Derry were very disappointing and offered little resistance. Cavan were lucky to get a replay against Tyrone but in fairness they too are some way off the mark. I do believe that Donegal have the better team. I feel that tactics will play a key factor. Our lads are hurting at losing last year’s Ulster final which in itself is a motivating factor. It is going to be one terrific contest which I will go into in more detail next week.
The provincial championships are not that healthy at the moment given that Ulster is still the only one where genuine competitiveness still exists. It was embarrassing to watch Kerry claim yet another Munster provincial title last Sunday without even getting out of second gear. The Galway hurlers now play in the Leinster championship because of lack of competition. I would like to see Kerry play in the Ulster championship. It seems unfair that Kerry’s and Dublin’s season only starts now. Dublin play Westmeath in the Leinster final which is another mismatch unfortunately.
When Ulster teams do eventually reach the business end of the season they are battle-weary. It has always been the way and Ulster teams do not get nearly enough credit when the odd All-Ireland title does come our way.
The two games between Monaghan and Donegal were by far the best games of the championship to date. The Ulster final meeting between Tyrone and Donegal will be a bruising encounter but these are two of the best teams in the country who possess many talented players.
The championship rolls on regardless and it is beginning to get interesting. We are spoiled here in Donegal where our team has reached yet another provincial decider. All credit has to be given to Rory Gallagher and the lads.
LATE SEAMUS MAC GEIDIGH
Donegal GAA lost a passionate sports commentator this week with the untimely passing of Seamus Mac Geidigh from Gortahork. I knew Seamus for years and he always had a kind word for everyone. He rarely missed a Donegal game and I believe that he commentated on the Donegal and Monaghan game last Saturday evening. His passing has come as a great shock to those of us who knew him. I would like to extend my sincerest condolences to his family.
May he rest in peace.