It is top versus bottom when Donegal face Tipperary, in round three of the Allianz League on Sunday in Semple Stadium, Thurles. (2 pm)
Donegal are the team in pole position on four points with two wins from their two games against Clare and Meath. Tipperary have just one point from last weekend’s draw with Fermanagh, also in Semple Stadium. They lost first day out away to Meath in Navan.
Donegal have been far from world beaters in their two games to date as a young and experimental side have mixed the good with the not so good.
A feature of their two performances so far is strong finishes in the last quarter. They came from behind to finally see off Clare in Ennis and last weekend they came from four points down in the middle of the second period to emerge two point winners 1-13 to 0-14.
Caolan McGonagle’s goal with less than a quarter hour to go against the Royal County was the big score.
“We hung in there, and when the opportunity came we took it. The lads finished the game out strong as we did down in Clare,” said the Donegal boss at this week’s press briefing on Tuesday afternoon.
“Yeah listen, Meath would probably feel hard done by coming out of MacCumhaill Park, but we stuck at it.
“We did ride our luck, there's no doubt about that, and when the opportunity came it was a fortuitous goal that Caolan McGonagle got.
“He went chasing it when it looked like a lost cause. The 'keeper took his eye off it and all of a sudden the ball is in the back of the net, and we kicked on.”
The Donegal boss did not agree with the suggestion that Meath dominated last Saturday night’s tie in a frosty MacCumhaill Park.
“I wouldn't say they were dominant. We gave away an awful lot of ball to be quite honest.
“Looking at the percentages, we had a lot of possession but we had ball turned over too quickly, and we allowed them into the game.
“That is something we are going to have to work on and it is an area we are going to have to improve on next Sunday against Tipperary.”
But the result apart, the Donegal boss is happy with the way the league has gone so far given they are without so many regulars.
“We have a lot of fellas putting up their hands which is positive and Eoin McHugh and Stephen McMenamin were introduced last weekend and made an impact.
“Eoin (McHugh) was unfortunate because he picked up a hamstring injury when he was going well in the McKenna Cup. He missed those last couple of weeks and he's just back.
“Stephen (McMenamin) was on club duty, but had a big impact when he came on on Saturday night.
“Brendan McCole has settled in at full-back and did well against Meath. Conor Morrison and Caolan Ward have been in there. They have all done well.
“Any guys that are showing and showing well will get an opportunity.”
Mark Anthony McGinley got the nod in goals ahead of Shaun Patton for the Meath game and had a good game .The manager was non committal on who was going to be between the posts in Thurles.
“The two of them are doing well. Listen, if we have competition for places right throughout the team, as we have for our goalkeepers, it would be great.
“They are two top class 'keepers and we will just look at it again this week.”
The Donegal boss reported no major knocks from the Meath game and he expects Michael Langan, who took a knock in the first half last Saturday night and was replaced at half-time, to be fit for Sunday’s joust with the Premier County.
The manager’s bigger concerns is this week’s quarter-finals in the Sigerson Cup. Ryan McHugh, Eoghan Bán Gallagher, Niall O’Donnell, Conor Morrison, Brendan McCole and Oisin Gallen are all involved in those Sigerson quarter-finals.
“It is far from ideal but I’m sure there are other managers who also feel the same way so we are just going to have to wait and see and hope for the best.”
Moville’s Tony McCleneghan has recovered from injury and is also back in the Donegal squad for this weekend.
Tipperary are struggling at the foot of the table and down a number of their big name players such as Michael Quinlivan, Robbie Kiely, Bill Maher and Cian O’Connell, all out long term. And they lost goalkeeper Evan Comerford to injury against Fermanagh.
But despite the absentees Declan Bonner is not taking the Tipperary challenge for granted and he still feels they will they have a lot of quality in their lineup.
“If you look at their full-forward line Philip Austin, Conor Sweeney, and Jack Kennedy. They are all good players. They have Stephen O'Brien in midfield, another really good player.
“Tipperary under Liam Kearns have been very, very close in recent years. We know it's not going to be an easy test.
“But it's one that if we are ready for it, and get that performance level, then we are well capable of getting two points.”
Donegal are favourites to take the full points. This would leave them sitting pretty on six points and with Michael Murphy, Frank McGlynn and Paddy McGrath not far off returning, in a very good position heading into the second half of the league when it resumes after the break.