brennan's brief For Donegal and Tyrone, this weekend's clash is a big day with no tomorrow
This strangest of GAA championship seasons began last weekend with two hurling matches - a little crank into first gear, if you like.
This weekend the turbo is engaged, with 13 games, nine of which are ‘win or go home’ jobs.
All four Leinster and Munster Hurling semi-finals have something tasty about them – the Limerick-Tipperary clash next Sunday in Pairc Ui Chaoimh above all.
The much-anticipated clash between the Premier county and the Tribesmen could , in fact, be a dress rehearsal for the All-Ireland Final.
Yet, the real sting won't be found on by the banks of the River Lee, as the qualifier draw beckons for the four losers, where they’ll join Laois and Clare.
It takes a little bit of the passion out of that game. Remember that last year Limerick hockeyed Tipp in the Munster Final, but it was the Premier County who went on to reach the All-Ireland Final – and win it.
However, in the football that's not the case, there is no second chance. In order to get the competition finished by Christmas, the football back-door has been slammed shut and there are no Super 8s either. For nine teams, Saturday or Sunday will end this strangest of GAA seasons.
Among the 18 county football teams who will take to the field this weekend are three who could lay claim to the Sam Maguire Cup, Mayo, Donegal and Tyrone.
The game of the weekend is, without doubt, the meeting of Donegal and Tyrone in Ballybofey, where either Declan Bonner’s or Mickey Harte’s charges will be left with nothing but a winter of regrets and what-might-have-beens.
For Michael Murphy and Jaime Brennan of Donegal and for Peter Harte and new star Conor McKenna of Tyrone this is it – a big day with no tomorrow.
Donegal don’t have a great recent record in ‘death or glory’ matches. They lost to Mayo last year in a Super 8s winner-takes-all game and the year before they lost to, of all teams, Tyrone in a similar match.
In that August 2018 defeat, which also was staged in Ballybofey, Donegal had carved out a winning position, only to concede two goals to Tyrone in the last 20 minutes of the match.
It’s just another factor that makes this clash of the Northern neighbours one to take in along with your Sunday lunch. This is where the real Championship starts.