ULSTER FINAL SPECIAL - Donegal on the brink of more history

16 PAGE SPECIAL PREVIEW IN TODAY'S DEMOCRAT

ULSTER FINAL SPECIAL - Donegal on the brink of more history

The stage is set for a momentous battle. Donegal and Rory Gallagher looking to create more history; Mickey Harte and Tyrone trying to get back to the top of the pile in Ulster.

St. Tiernach’s Park, Clones, will be awash with green and gold and red and white as Donegal take on Tyrone at 2 p.m. in the senior final while Donegal and Derry minors will get the show on the road at 12 noon.

To say there is little between Donegal and Tyrone is the biggest understatement of the year. There is also a very keen rivalry built up over the past five years with Donegal coming out on top on four occasions - once by two points; twice by three and by six points in 2013 - the day best remembered in Ballybofey when Stephen O’Neill got in the way of Neil McGee on his outward run.

However, on all of these days, the contest could have gone either way. Donegal had to come from behind in 2011, and in 2012 a late Dermot Molloy goal eased the nerves. Last year in a hotly contested game in MacCumhaill Park, Michael Murphy had to endure attention that was well outside what might be termed legal, but still stood up and thumped some great frees over to break the Tyrone spirit.

In each and every one of those games, it took mental strength, desire and leadership to get over the line, and one feels it will be the same on Sunday next.

Mickey Harte says there isn’t any personal rancour between Donegal and Tyrone, but others might disagree. Sunday will be a tough day for all involved - players, managements and referee. Donegal showed against Monaghan that they have the hunger, but they will have to improve again in the area of decision-making and composure.

The outcome of the game will be decided on the small things; not losing the focus when the temperature heats up, both on and off the field. It will take the full complement of players because Tyrone will make it a draining contest, hoping that some of the older Donegal legs might wilt. Donegal will need to use their bench and indeed, trust their bench. They have been helped by the return of Neil McGee, which, apart from being a major boost, also gives them an extra option.

No matter what the result, it is a special occasion for Donegal followers and we should never forget this bunch of players. Playing in an Ulster final for a sixth year in-a-row is a record for the modern era. Nine of the panel for Sunday have the chance to play in all six finals, a fantastic achievement.

At the beginning of this year, I felt that maybe this could be a last chance saloon, but there has been something of a transition taking place, and no matter what happens on Sunday, we are well placed going forward.

We need to get a few breaks, but if we look after the little things, then there is no reason why we cannot take home the Anglo Celt for the fourth time in those six years.

GET THERE EARLY

We should not forget that we have a very talented minor team looking to get the day off to the perfect start when they play Derry in the minor final. It is vital that Donegal supporters get there early in big numbers to cheer on this team. There will probably be only a handful of Derry supporters, so we can become an extra-man for Shaun Paul Barrett’s side.

Donegal minors to get the day off to a flier!