BRIAN MCENIFF COLUMN: Donegal warm up with win in Down while Mayo set down marker in New York

BRIAN MCENIFF COLUMN: Donegal warm up with win in Down while Mayo set down marker in New York

Donegal warmed up for their championship opener with Fermanagh at the end of the month with a challenge game with Down in Tullylish.

Donegal won by two points. But it was an experimental side with neither Patrick McBrearty or Michael Murphy starting.

I don’t think Rory Gallagher will have learned a lot from the game if he had eyes on the challenge. But I’m sure it served its purpose for Declan Bonner.

The Fermanagh game is only three weeks away so the clock is ticking.

Mayo put down a marker, albeit it was against New York on Sunday with a big win.

James Horan has picked up a number of good young players in the league.

They, at the moment, are the second best team in the country. Dublin are still the number one and now that the Dubs have got Rory Carroll back and if Diarmuid Connolly returns they will be some force.

Tryrone and Derry open the Ulster championship next Sunday in Omagh. I expect Tyrone to win with something to spare.

If Tyrone continue to play the football they did in the latter stages of the league they will be a force this year too.

The playing of Cathal McShane and Mattie Donnelly up in the full-forward line has really worked well for them and has seen them change to a more direct style of play.

Tyrone, Monaghan and Donegal have been for a few years now the big three in Ulster and I cannot see that change this year.

The word on the ground in Monaghan is the injury picked up by Darren Hughes in a club game is not as bad as first feared and he may be available for the championship.

If that is the case, and the big Scotstown man is able to play, then Monaghan will be a force to be reckoned with.

I expect Donegal to get out of Brewster Park with a win, though it won’t be as easy as last summer’s Ulster final. That will set up a semi-final meeting with Tyrone.

Galway scraped through against London in Ruislip on Sunday, which can be a tricky assignment. They now play Sligo in Markievicz Park and I expect them to come through that one.

Mayo will play the winners of Roscommon and Leitrim, who meet next Sunday in Dr Hyde Park.

Roscommon should come through that one but will find Mayo a bridge too far in the semi-final. It all points to a Mayo versus Galway Connacht final.

Dublin will breeze through Leinster again. I’m not sure of the draw in Leinster but I liked the look of Meath in the league. They were by far the best team we played and I think they have overtaken Kildare and are probably the second team in Leinster.

There is only one team in Munster, Kerry.

The above eight - at least seven of them will make the top eight and in the running for the championship.

I was at the Bundoran league game on Saturday evening. We were without the two Brennans, Paul and Jamie, and lost Conor Carty and Ciaran McCaughey to injury.

Nevertheless, we fielded a strong enough team against what was a very young St Michaels side short a number of their big name players.

But that did not stop them blowing Bundoran out of the water in the first half. St Michaels led 1-13 to 2-4 at half-time having played against a stiff breeze and after kicking some wonderful points.

I was really impressed with their full-forward John McFadden and their wing-forward Edward O’Reilly. They are two fine young players.

The injuries to Conor Carty and Ciaran McCaughey broke the rhythm of the game and the teams only scored three points each afterwards

.

Brian McEniff was in conversation with Tom Comack