We now know that Monaghan will be Donegal’s opponents in the Ulster final. As the idiom says “better the devil you know than the devil you don’t”
We know what Monaghan will bring to the table whereas Armagh could turn up with any sort of team and could well have been the banana skin that no team wants to face.
Finals can bring the best and worst out of teams. No matter how well a team is prepared it is really on the day that counts where the sense of occasion can overwhelm players. Donegal under the stewardship of Jim McGuinness have contested many finals in recent years. Our defeat to Monaghan in last year’s Ulster final still hurts and this pain can only serve to motivate Donegal even more when the two teams meet once again in Monaghan’s back yard on Sunday week.
The pressure is all on Monaghan though as they will be installed as favourites to reclaim the Anglo-Celt cup. They have played all three of their championship games to date in Clones. Monaghan have also extended their winning run of games in league and championship at their home venue to 17 games.
Their performances throughout the National League and championship was certainly impressive and have proven themselves as the form team in Ulster since last year’s win in the Ulster final.
We in Donegal are very familiar with this Monaghan outfit having played them several times in recent years. Their defence is solid, their midfield wins their fair share of possession and their forwards are quite accurate. Their main strength is the physicality which they bring to their game. They are capable of taking and giving the hard knocks.
Toughness has been a prerequisite for any Monaghan player down the years. That said, they have a few top quality players who would get on any team in the country. There’s no denying that we have an axe to grind with Monaghan.
Donegal throughout the ages has always been a team that loves to play football. We pride ourselves in never having to employ underhand tactics or ever being cynical. I believe that Donegal will still beat Monaghan with football. We are in a much better place than at the same period last year.
Many lessons have been learned since that fateful day in Clones last July. Donegal should have a full panel to select from, something we didn’t have last year. We are less battle weary also. We’ve had a good look at Monaghan in recent weeks due to their replay with Armagh. It has to be added that Armagh is not one of the shining lights in Ulster football at present. They missed their chance in their first encounter with Monaghan.
Armagh has to face Tyrone this Sunday in the qualifiers. Tyrone will show us how poor this Armagh team is. I’m sure Monaghan are also aware that they didn’t beat a good team. I’m sure Monaghan will not be too anxious about facing Donegal again. Home advantage may favour them but technical superiority is a different thing.
Donegal may be perceived as having come through the easier side of the draw while Monaghan had to play much stiffer opposition on their way to this final.
I believe that Donegal would not want to face any other team than Monaghan in the Ulster final. Our players want to redeem themselves after last year’s defeat and no better team to beat than the team who dethroned us last year.
The Donegal lads, irrespective of the opposition, will be hungry to win another Ulster championship. Who knows how long this current crop of players will be together. This year could signal the end for some of the mature players. All the motivation is there.
When we see how favourites Cork performed against Kerry last Sunday in the Munster championship final we can have great hope for Donegal. Most people would have expected Cork to beat a Kerry team that is supposedly in transition. Cork’s collapse is difficult to understand. Cork were outright favourites for this clash. They simply didn’t turn up. We are not given much of a chance in the Ulster final bar a few brave pundits. Monaghan, on the face of it, seem to be the team that has it all to lose. They breezed past Armagh in the replay. They are the reigning Ulster champions and captured the Division 2 National league title in the recent past.
Their impressive performances in the championship and league prove that their victory over Donegal in last year’s final was no fluke. It is going to be a riveting contest. Sunday week cannot come soon enough.
Keep the faith!