Down unlikely to halt imposing Donegal juggernaut

All-Ireland champions ready to maintain their impressive run of victories in Ulster

Donegal’s Leo McLoone (left) and  Mark Poland of Down are ready to do battle again in Sunday’s Ulster senior football championship semi-final at Breffni Park. Photograph: Lorraine O’Sullivan/Inpho

Donegal’s Leo McLoone (left) and Mark Poland of Down are ready to do battle again in Sunday’s Ulster senior football championship semi-final at Breffni Park. Photograph: Lorraine O’Sullivan/Inpho

Sat, Jun 22, 2013, 01:00

Those of us fortunate to have attended last year’s Ulster football final were treated to one of the standout moments of the championship.

Having held Donegal to just a one-point advantage at half-time, Down were then steamrolled with 1-13 in the second half, a truly powerful performance from the subsequent All-Ireland champions.

Their 11-point win was their biggest victory margin in the 2012 championship.

So, less than one year later, should we expect anything different? Probably not a whole lot different: it was certainly business as usual for Donegal in the way they wore down Tyrone in their quarter-final, limiting them to 10 points, and only three in the second half, so typical of their ruthless strength over the 70 minutes.

Down came out a week later, let Derry score 1-9 in the first half, then hit back with 2-5 within 14 minutes of the second half, winning by five points in the end. Down won’t get away with that sort of carry on this time – at either end of the field.

Donegal have now won their last nine matches in the Ulster football championship– Down were the last team to beat them, back in May 2010, winning the quarter-final after extra-time, 1-15 to 2-10.

“We’ll respect them, but won’t fear them,” said Down forward Mark Poland.

If Down, who are unchanged, can hit the Donegal target early on then this definitely has the potential to be a lot closer that last year.

Donegal are also without Karl Lacey and Neil Gallagher.

But everything about the way Jim McGuinness talked this week about playing each game as it comes sounded ominous for the Mourne men.