Donegal should have clout to advance
Outsiders Antrim look for forwards to shine
Darach O’Connor in action during the Ulster Senior Football Championship quarter-final at Celtic Park, Derry, last month. His inclusion along with Odhran MacNeilis gave Donegal two championship debuts to back up the return to form of the old guard. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho
It is safe to say that this has been the quieter side of the Ulster house. The winner of this match will advance to the Ulster final with more fireworks to come from the other side of the draw.
Liam “Baker” Boyle has been confidently banging the drum for Antrim, explaining the Saffron county as “entertainers” and inviting Donegal to go mano-a-mano in an old-fashioned shoot out. It is unlikely that their opponents will take up the invitation.
Antrim’s win over Fermanagh was nothing if not high entertainment: they conspired to turn a 1-10 to 0-1 lead into an out and out shoot out before winning 2-18 to 3-13. But when people say that Enniskillen is a hard place to get out of, they aren’t just referring to the one-way traffic system.
Beating a Pete McGrath coached team in Brewster Park was a considerable feather in Bradley’s cap. His statement that he believes that Antrim have a crack at winning Ulster because of the quality of their forward line is fair enough.
But they are outsiders here. The manner of Donegal’s win over Derry was as significant as the fact of it. The defensive organisation was again evident, the enterprising backs-and-forwards attacking game was used to blistering effect during the seven-minute blitzkrieg which decided the match and most of all, their collective ability to dictate the terms of the game was there.
All were absent in the critical games last year. Last minute surgery to the named midfield led to big shifts from Christy Toye and Martin McElhinney in the first- and second-halves respectively and the return of Rory Kavanagh deepens that sector.
The inclusion of Darach O’Connor and Odhran MacNeilis gave Donegal two championship debuts to back up the return to form of the old guard.
With a month of training, Donegal will hope to bring an improved performance to Clones on Sunday and return to the Ulster final.