Sport

SUNDAY GAA PREVIEWS: Will Father Time catch up with Donegal?

SportBy Sean McGoldrick
It's time for Mayo to man up - but have Donegal run out have legs in Ulster?
It's time for Mayo to man up - but have Donegal run out have legs in Ulster?

Ulster SFC Final: Donegal v Monaghan, Clones, 2.0. Sunday, July 19 Live on RTE 2

This will almost certainly be a dour, low scoring and tactical game of attrition.

This is their third successive meeting in an Ulster final and on the field it could be a case of familiarity breeding contempt.

Curiously the two teams are managed by Fermanagh natives Malachy O'Rourke and Rory Gallagher - who are clashing for the first times as rival managers in the championship.

Two years ago Monaghan hijacked Donegal's bid for a historic third's Ulster title on the spin by inflicting the 'Donegal game plan' on the team that invented it.

Donegal gained revenge in last year's final but this contest is balanced on a knife edge.  The champions have had by far the more demanding campaign having had to overcome Tyrone, Armagh and Derry.

Monaghan should be fresher; though they hit unexpected speed bumps against both Cavan and Fermanagh.

In Gallagher's rookie season as team boss Donegal have changed aspects of their game plan. They are a bit more adventurous but the price for that is that they cough up far more goal chances - though they have only conceded one so far in the championship.

They also tend to go for the jugular right from the throw and, once they establish a lead, frustrate the hell out of the opposition by closing down the game.

In contrast, Monaghan are content to stay in the game up until the final quarter when they bring experienced players like Dick Clerkin off the bench and allow wing backs Karl O'Connell and Dessie Mone to attack.

Donegal have far more potential match-winners than Monaghan who are depending solely on Conor McManus for the scores to keep them in matches. Significantly, when they beat Donegal in 2013 they had eight different scores and they need a similar spread of scorers on this occasion.

Father Time, though, will ultimately catch up with Donegal.

It could be today.

Verdict: Monaghan.

 

Connacht SFC final

Mayo v Sligo, Dr Hyde Park Roscommon, 4.0 Sunday, July 19, 4.0 Live on RTE 2

Mayo, on course for a record-breaking five provincial titles on the spin, are 1/10 on beat Division 3 side Sligo.

Indeed, in order to stay as credible All-Ireland contenders they probably need to win by more than half-a-dozen points.

Sligo have been one of the surprise success stories of the championship.  However, Roscommon's exit from the All-Ireland series has taken some of the gloss off the Yeats' County four-point win over John Evans' side in the semi-final.

Niall Carew's team won't fear Mayo - after all they only lost to them by two points, one of them a disputed score - in the 2012 provincial decider.

Mayo though will relentlessly try to exploit Sligo's inexperienced midfield pairing of Cian Breheny and Niall Murphy, who essentially are both converted forwards and are not noted for their ball-winning ability.

Knowing this, the champions will push up on Sligo's kick-outs. At the other end the Sligo rearguard will have difficulty coping with the marauding runs and overall strength of Aidan O'Shea on the edge of the square.

On the other hand David Kelly, Pat Hughes and Adrian Marren are capable of exploiting a less than assured Mayo full back-line provided they see enough of the ball.

The longer Sligo can deny Mayo the oxygen of a goal the better chance they have of pulling off a major surprise. But realistically, Mayo ought to have acquired enough savvy at this stage of their evolution to see off Sligo.

Otherwise, they can forget about winning an All-Ireland.

Verdict: Mayo