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spillane's verdict Donegal's never-say-die spirit will be enough to see off Tyrone

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There are serious question marks surrounding the fitness of Donegal's Michael Murphy

There are serious question marks surrounding the fitness of Donegal's Michael Murphy

There are serious question marks surrounding the fitness of Donegal's Michael Murphy

ULSTER SFC SEMI-FINALS

DONEGAL v TYRONE

Brewster Park, Enniskillen, 1.45, RTE 2 & BBC 2

THIS is a difficult match to call. Donegal beat Tyrone in the league but it is best to disregard that result, as Tyrone had only 14 men for much of that game after the dismissal of Michael O’Neill.

Of the two, Tyrone had a more convincing quarter-final win last weekend.

However, there are of lot of questions marks hanging over both sides.

Cavan provided no test to Tyrone. Darren McCurry (inset) was on fire, but it is still a worry when one player contributes more than 50 per cent of the team’s scores.

Ronan McNamee’s successful appeal against his red card is a potential game-changer. He will be ear-marked to man-mark Paddy McBrearty who, as Derry discovered, needs close attention every second of the game.

Donegal fell over the line against Derry, with their defence looking very vulnerable.

Derry created six goalscoring opportunities, but their failure to take any of them proved their downfall.

Tyrone will have noted that if Ryan McHugh and McBrearty can be contained, Donegal looked very ordinary – and there is now a huge question mark over the fitness of Donegal’s talisman, Michael Murphy.

Under their new management team, Tyrone have struck a better balance between defence and attack.

They have recovered from the drubbing they got from Kerry in Killarney.

And they may have stumbled on a decent midfield partnership in Brian Kennedy and Conn Kilpatrick.

But I’m giving a hesitant vote to Donegal.

Their consistency is to be admired – they are aiming to reach their 10th Ulster final in 11 seasons.

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I like their physicality, athleticism and ability to score long-range points.

But what I admire most about them is their never-say-die spirit. In the league they came from behind to draw against Monaghan and Armagh.

They didn’t take the lead against Derry until near the end, they won playing badly. Last Sunday might have been the fright they needed to get it right today.

Verdict: Donegal


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Jack O'Connor is a good fit for Kildare football

Jack O'Connor is a good fit for Kildare football

Jack O'Connor is a good fit for Kildare football

LEINSTER SFC SEMI-FINALS

KILDARE v WESTMEATH

Croke Park, 2.0, GAA GO

If there is to be one surprise in the provincial series this summer, we might witness it here.

My prediction is not based on what the teams did in the league. Westmeath were relegated from Division 2, whereas Kildare were promoted to Division 1.

But Westmeath lost two games by one-point margins, the other by three points and conceded no goals.

They scored 0-25 against Cork, even though they lost.

They are a strong, running side who have now got the balance right between attack and defence.

Granted Laois were poor, but Westmeath looked good in the second half in the quarter final, outscoring them 2-10 to 0-2.

I have always believed Kildare are a team with huge potential, and Jack O’Connor is a good fit for them as manager. But I was very disappointed with their quarter-final performance against Offaly.

They huffed and puffed and failed to get the ball into their full-forward line, which is where they can do most damage. Perhaps, we will see a surprise.

Verdict: Westmeath


DUBLIN v MEATH

Croke Park, 4.30, GAA GO

When they met in the Leinster final last winter, Dublin won by 21 points. I think Meath froze on the night. Their form since has been inconsistent, and they failed to secure promotion back to Division 1.

But there were some signs of improvement.

They came from 10 points down against Kildare in the Division 1 promotion play-off, and could have brought the game to extra time. They hit 4-22 against Longford in the quarter-final. And they will have learned a lot from last year’s ill-fated clash against the Dubs.

As for Dublin – I’m not too sure where they’re at. I know they are on the decline, and the Stephen Cluxton issue is a distraction.

For me, the alarm bells started to sound during their second-half performance against Kerry in the league. It was so uncharacteristic. They lost a seven-point lead, got just three scores, lacked composure and were hanging on at the end.

Wexford took a leaf out of the Kerry playbook, because they got at Dublin physically and managed to get under their skins. They didn’t allow Dublin to play the game on their terms.

Four Dublin forwards failed to score from play, and they failed to find the net. Having said that, they still shared the league title with Kerry despite never moving out of second gear.

Dublin to win but by less than half of last year’s margin.

Verdict: Dublin

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