Donegal’s hard road to end in another title

Monaghan likely to battle hard but superior firepower will be too much for challengers

In the space of a few years these counties have passed milestones in Ulster football. Monaghan are in a third successive final for the first time in more than 90 years, while Donegal contest a fifth final in a row for the first time since 1993.

It will also be the first time since 1945 that the provincial title has gone to the cross-border counties for five consecutive championships.

Although Monaghan have won as recently as two years ago, there’s no mistaking the dominant county in all of this. Donegal have transitioned from Jim McGuinness’s management to Rory Gallagher’s without apparently skipping a beat.

The performances have been impressive and in the most demanding of circumstances. Former Monaghan manager Séamus McEnaney says if Donegal win, it will be the toughest Ulster title he’s ever seen – numbering among the county’s victims all of the provincial champions going back to 1997.


Monaghan probably haven’t been going as well as previously although it’s hard to be definitive given their route through the easier side of the draw. They have always been a tough nut for Donegal to crack, handing them their only Ulster defeat since 2010 two years ago.

Good shape

Donegal, as indicated in the provincial semi-final against Derry, don’t always thrive against defensive systems and Monaghan’s is well-established. Their game plan is, however, in good shape. They may have had an off day against Derry but they still dictated the terms of engagement. They have better form in the forwards, with Patrick McBrearty proving very influential.

Colm McFadden is playing his best football since the All-Ireland year and Michael Murphy without hitting the top notes has been chiming in with critical scores. They may be discomfited by blanket defence but they have the weaponry to deal with it.

This contrasts with Monaghan, who overly rely on Conor McManus. He’s a terrific player and with support could be the best forward in the game – as hinted at in recent international rules series – but it’s a huge challenge to carry the attack in a team that defends so deeply.

Monaghan have the game to clog up Donegal's fast-moving counter-attacks but they will struggle to get the upper hand at centrefield, where Neil Gallagher is another back on form, and ultimately to get the scores that matter.

Seán Moran

Seán Moran

Seán Moran is GAA Correspondent of The Irish Times