Donegal will be facing Cork for the fourth time in championship on Saturday when they clash in Round 4 of the Qualifiers in Croke Park (4.00 p.m.)
The Rebels hold the upper hand so far, winning two in 2006 and 2009 while in the 2012 All-Ireland semi-final, Donegal came out on top in one of best games of that year’s championship.
That 2012 win saw Donegal reach the All-Ireland final for only their second ever time and they went on to lift Sam Maguire, defeating Mayo in the final.
This time around, it is back to the Qualifiers, a route that neither side would have planned for. Cork surprisingly lost out to Tipperary in the Munster semi-final, while Donegal lost out to Tyrone in the Ulster final.
Cork have had two games already in the Qualifiers, both away, having some difficulty overcoming Limerick, while they proved too strong for Longford in Pearse Park in Round 3.
Donegal have to lick their wounds after a bruising affair with Tyrone in the Ulster final and there will be plenty of interest in the make-up of the side that Rory Gallagher and his management team will select for Saturday next.
Up until now in the championship, Gallagher has relied on a very small pool of players with much talk about the tactic of re-introducing players that have been substituted in games.
The other big talking point right throughout the county last week was the non-appearance of Leo McLoone since half-time in the opening game against Fermanagh. Having travelled through the county on Friday last, that was the opening line from anyone I talked with.
We are not privy to what is happening at training, so we can’t be sure of fitness or injuries to players, but we have watched the Naomh Conaill man do warm ups during all of these games without being introduced.
Saturday could also be an opportunity to give some of the younger members of the panel their chance. The likes of Stephen McBrearty, Eoghan Ban Gallagher, Darach O’Connor, Ciaran Thompson, etc., could be given their chance.
In their recent meetings with Cork, there was just a point between them in 2006, Cork winning by 1-11 to 1-10, while in 2009, the Munster side had a big win, 1-27 to 2-10, the Donegal goals coming from Rory Kavanagh and Stephen Griffin, with Michael Murphy hitting 0-6.
However, it is the most recent meeting in 2012 that Donegal supporters will like to remember. Donegal prevailed by 0-16 to 1-11 on a day that Neil Gallagher was supreme at midfield for Donegal.
The fact that the Glenswilly man has been missing through injury this year has hampered Donegal, having to play Michael Murphy around midfield to compensate.
Hopefully on Saturday Murphy can be used in a more attacking role and Donegal can be more positive and give it a go. The reward for the winners may not be that appetising - a quarter-final against Dublin - but that is for another day and it is important for Donegal to get back on the horse on Saturday and overcome Cork.