Focus will be on David Coldrick
Meath referee, David Coldrick, should have a good idea of what’s in front of him on Sunday next in St. Tiernach’s Park, Clones.
It will be his third game in less than 12 months in charge of Donegal and Tyrone. He was in charge in last summer’s Ulster final and again when the sides met in MacCumhaill Park for the Allianz League encounter on a wet Saturday night in March.
It is something of an unwritten policy in the GAA in recent times that the same referee is appointed when two counties are meeting on a regular basis.
Before Coldrick, it was Cavan’s Joe McQuillan who was the regular whistler in Donegal-Tyrone clashes.
The history between Donegal and Tyrone will be diminished on Sunday next with so few of the Donegal team of last summer in place now. Half of the defence is gone; a new midfield will be in place and there will also be new faces up front.
Tyrone will also have changes and it will be interesting to see if Justin McMahon plays and if he will be given the role of marking (or holding) Michael Murphy, and if so, how long he will get away with it.
I’m sure there will be other match-ups that will need close scrutiny by Coldrick and his officials. We can hardly envisage that it will be an open game.
Donegal will have much more pace than they did in the final last year and hopefully that will be a positive. However, this will also be a big test for the young Donegal stars who have been showing up so well during the league and in the first game against Antrim.
If they can come through Sunday’s test, hopefully, with some protection from David Coldrick, then Donegal could enjoy a good summer.
Last year, they needed a replay to get over Monaghan in the semi-final. It could be that close again on Sunday.
NO TEAM UNTIL FRIDAY OR SATURDAY
Donegal will not announce their team until Friday or Saturday, we have been told this week. We have also been told that they have a fully fit squad to select from.
It’s an old chestnut, but it takes away from the build-up to any big game when the team is not announced.
Some counties don’t have any problem announcing their teams early. Roscommon named their team for their Connacht semi-final battle with neighbours, Leitrim, on Monday night. Others seem to have a problem, and then you have ‘fake teams’ being put out.
With over 20,000 supporters expected to pack St. Tiernach’s Park, Clones, there is huge interest in the game. If the match day squads of both teams were released, that might be a way of satisfying the pre-match hype and hunger of those who are prepared to pay the admission fee.
Harps’ big return
Finn Harps also have a big game this weekend when they host Shamrock Rovers on Friday night as the SSE Airtricity Premier League returns after a short summer break.
The visit of Shamrock Rovers always evokes memories for older Finn Harps fans, as the Dublin club were the first team to play Harps in Finn Park when the Twin Towns side took their place in the League of Ireland.
While no one wants a repeat of the scoreline that day, Finn Harps have come through many changes since then. Retaining their Premier status for 2018 will be a battle but Ollie Horgan has added a bit of steel to the side this year and they are now a much more difficult team to defeat. With Dundalk and Derry City also on the horizon in the coming weeks, a win on Friday night would be a good way to settle back in after the break.