Monaghan won’t be able to stay with the high tempo set by Donegal
The step up in class will prove too much, while London will be out of their depth against Mayo
Jim McGuinness will be delighted to get Karl Lacey back for his Donegal side. Photograph: Lorraine O’Sullivan/Inpho
Monaghan go into tomorrow’s Ulster final not having been overly impressive against Antrim and Cavan to date. They play to a system that’s not unlike Donegal’s and have presumably paid close attention to how Down set up similarly gave Donegal a good run for their money in the semi-final.
Kieran Duffy played as a sweeper against Cavan. The system worked well but prioritises high work rate, breaking quickly after the turnover and injecting pace into the attack. The problem was that unlike Donegal, they were very wasteful in attack.
Tomorrow they’re going to need to really raise the conversion rate because Donegal’s defensive wall will make it very hard for them to get clear-cut chances and they’re going to have to take an awful lot more of them to stay in the game.
We’ll see a tremendous effort from Monaghan but I think it’s going to be like last week when Meath played Dublin: a Division Three team which will find it hard to compete for a full 70 minutes with opposition used to playing at a higher level of pace, intensity and physicality and able to create opportunities.
I could see Monaghan staying with them for three-quarters or so of the match but eventually the power running of Donegal will takes its toll on a team not used to coping with such a high tempo.
That’s allowing for the fact that Donegal haven’t so far reached the highs of last year and you wonder is all of this high-energy football beginning to take its toll, particularly when you consider the absence of key players with injury at various stages.
In that context Jim McGuinness will be very happy to get Karl Lacey finally back in action, as he’s been a serious loss so far but generally I’d still be concerned that the quality at their disposal drops sharply when you go beyond the first 15 and they lack the depth in their panel that Kerry, Dublin or Mayo have.
As well as winning a three-in-a-row in Ulster, which would be a fantastic achievement for the county, Donegal also have the motivation of needing fewer fixtures given the demands on the bodies of the same players – training, matches and recovery periods – for the past two and a half years.
They remain very dependent on Murphy and McFadden for getting scores and Monaghan will of course drop extra players back to hold the fort. McFadden is a tremendous score taker and keeping the ball away from him is paramount and I think Colin Walshe, who I thought was excellent in the semi-final, may be given the man-marking job.