Planning for the quickest Clones route

Planning for the quickest Clones route
So here we go again, for an unprecedented third year in-a-row, we plan the quickest route to the fortress of Clones for Ulster final day.

So here we go again, for an unprecedented third year in-a-row, we plan the quickest route to the fortress of Clones for Ulster final day.

It’s a second home to us in Donegal at this stage. At the end of the day we’ve played only three championship games in Ballybofey since 2011, whereas Sunday will be our fifth time in Clones in the same period.

Home advantage for our final opponents Monaghan shouldn’t be as pivotal a factor as it might have been a few seasons back.

Any outsider looking in at this one won’t be giving Monaghan too much of a chance.

Sure, they beat a Cavan team who were in good form, but Cavan were certainly the better team for most of their encounter and were denied a stonewall penalty in the dying moments that could possibly have won them the game.

Monaghan beating this Donegal team - a team that are reigning All-Ireland champions and aiming for three Ulster titles in-a-row just doesn’t sound right.

Of course, I’m backing Donegal all the way, but I’m secretly hoping to see Monaghan run us close.

You don’t want to be going into an All-Ireland quarter-final having won your provincial crown by some ridiculous figure, especially not with the quality of the teams left in the qualifiers.

Monaghan have a top class manager in Malachy O’Rourke but Donegal have Jim McGuinness, a man who could walk into almost any inter-county managing position in the country at present.

And when it comes to making big decisions McGuinness very rarely gets it wrong.

Conor McManus has been Monaghan’s outstanding forward thus far, kicking 10 points in two games, and has been assisted by Chris McGuinness up front, who has hit 1-2 to date. But do they compare to the on-fire trio of Michael Murphy, Colm McFadden and Patrick McBrearty leading the line for Donegal?

Donegal are stronger all over the field, but maybe we’re wrong to just take this one for granted, cockiness doesn’t suit us, and whether we like it or not, in football, anything can happen.

Speculation is ongoing over the fitness of two of Donegal’s best players from our All-Ireland winning team last year, Neil Gallagher and Karl Lacey.

Of course it would be a real boost to have them both playing from the start come 4pm on Sunday, but a lot has to be said for the performances of the two Walshs, Declan and David, who have come in for the meetings with Tyrone and Down.

Both fitted in seamlessly and went about their work in a no- nonsense kind of fashion. Martin O’Reilly, Ross Wherity and Ryan McHugh have also impressed when on.

As a whole the Ulster championship, and in fact, the Leinster, Connacht and Munster Championships have all been pretty dull affairs so far, while the hurling championship has grabbed all the attention.

London reaching a Connacht final has been this year’s standout event, but you can only fear the worst as they prepare for Mayo in the final.

As summer truly begins to take off, off the pitch, let’s hope Sundays encounter with Monaghan will light things up on it.

Donegal for Ulster 2013!

Cormac Callaghan has just completed Transition Year at St Eunan’s College in Letterkenny and plays for his local club Glenswilly