Donegal’s attacking prowess likely to crush Cork’s dream
Fragile Cork has struggled to complete threatening counter-attacks so far this year
Tyrone’s Niall Sludden and Ronan McNabb tackle Donegal’s Michael Murphy: Murphy has ability to inflict damage on Cork’s inside line on Saturday. Photograph: Lorraine O’Sullivan/Inpho
This could be a fascinating match. Back as far as the Armagh-Galway clash in 2001 the phenomenon of this sort of contest has been a feature of the qualifier era: two teams desperately in need of rehabilitation meeting in July with the waters closing over one and the other getting a great bounce from the victory.
It would be pitching it a bit far to see both of these teams winning the next two All-Irelands between them but whoever emerges will be a tricky encounter for Dublin or Tyrone.
It has to be said that Cork are much farther back. It’s been a miserable year so far with league relegation followed by losing to Tipperary in one of those Reeling in the Years-worthy championship defeats. The road back has not been scenic with adequate wins over Limerick and Longford.
Donegal’s challenge is more fully psychological in that they have to come to terms with a second successive Ulster final defeat by the narrowest of margins as well as the nagging torture that they could well have won both.
They have been playing to a far higher standard than Cork, beating a useful Fermanagh side and then playing three hard matches against teams who will be Division One outfits next season, Monaghan and Tyrone.
The danger signs evident have been uncharacteristic: an inability to put away Monaghan the first day despite abundant chances and a failure to close out a tight finish during which they led in the Ulster final against Tyrone.
They now face a team with almost nothing to lose after the indignities of the season so far.
It’s questionable though how well placed Cork are to exploit any vulnerability.
Their game plan is more defensive than of old but they are struggling to complete threatening counter-attacks and whereas Colm O’Neill is a great finisher, he functions more effectively in a more orthodox system which exploits his elusiveness and shooting ability rather than making demands on his mobility.
Cork’s centrefield can give them a decent platform but how effectively they can use that is open to question.
Donegal in full flow have been lively, defending en masse and countering really well in the first half of the Ulster final.
Michael Murphy hasn’t been having the most forceful of seasons but placed in the full-forwards with Patrick McBrearty, it’s easy to imagine damage on a fragile Cork inside line.
Previously: In the 2012 All-Ireland semi-final Donegal were 0-16 to 1-11 winners.
You bet: Donegal 4/7, 11/4 and the draw at 15/2.
Injuries: Cork’s Brian Hurley is out until next year with a serious hamstring injury, requiring surgery.
DONEGAL: Mark Anthony McGinley; Paddy McGrath, Neil McGee, Ciaran Gillespie; Ryan McHugh, Karl Lacey, Frank McGlynn; Rory Kavanagh, Martin McElhinney; Anthony Thompson, Odhrán Mac Niallais, Eoin McHugh; Patrick McBrearty, Michael Murphy, Martin O'Reilly.
Referee: Paddy Neilan (Roscommon).
Just the ticket: €25, juveniles €5 – €10 rebate concessions for students and senior citizens in Cusack and Davin Stands.