Preview: A defining day for Donegal
A defining day for Donegal whose squandermania – they kicked 16 wides – not alone cost them the Ulster title but left them with an Everest like challenge if they are to win that elusive second All-Ireland title.
It is best for Rory Gallagher’s side to take one game at a time; otherwise there is a danger of them losing heart and walking away into the sunset.
Having already played three teams that featured in Division 1 this season, a win today will give them a quarter final slot against Mayo with the winners likely to be facing Dublin in the All-Ireland semi-final and Kerry in the final!
Meanwhile, Dublin can reach the All-Ireland semi-final by beating one Division 4, one Division 3 and two Division 2 sides! But the difference is Dublin is unbeaten, whereas Donegal surrendered their bragging rights when they lost to Monaghan.
After a spirited but ultimately unrewarding clash against Mayo, Galway have regrouped winning back to back matches against two Ulster sides, Armagh and Derry to reach the last 12 for the second season on the spin.
Having already faced two Ulster sides, Donegal’s zonal defensive system won’t faze Kevin Walsh’s charges. The big change in the Tribesmen is that they have belatedly adapted their own version of the blanket defence and having got rid of the bad habit of conceding frees within scoring range they are now proving difficult to score against.
Rory Gallagher has big decision to make; top of the list is where to play Michael Murphy who appears to be carrying an injury. Donegal would surely prove more potent if they dispatch Murphy to test Finian Hanley at full back and play Paddy McBrearty alongside him.
Donegal are bidding to avoid their third successive loss at Croke after last year’s All-Ireland final and this year’s League semi-final. Having lost to Monaghan two years ago in the League they struggled to beat Laois in their first outing in the qualifiers.
They have had a week extra to prepare for this clash against a county which hasn’t won a match in Croke Park since the 2001 All-Ireland final. Were there too be a shock result this weekend this is the game most likely to produce it – but on balance Donegal ought to survive.
Galway v Donegal, Croke Park, 6.00pm. Extra time if needed, Saturday, August 1. Live on Sky