Ulster GAA Football Championship semi-final
Donegal v Tyrone, Clones, 3.30pm
The Story so far...
Donegal come in to this clash on the back of convincing wins over Cavan and Antrim so far this year in the Ulster GAA Championship. There is no doubt that confidence is high in the camp after already securing promotion to the Allianz Football League top tier for 2012.
Tyrone, the reigning provincial champions, did what was required of them in their opening Championship match against Monaghan – seeing them off on a scoreline of 1-13 to 1-11.
This is the first time these two sides have met in Championship football since 2007 and on that occasion Tyrone cruised past Donegal by 10 points. The Red Hands went on to win Ulster that year and repeated that feat in 2009 and ’10 so they know what it takes to win at this level.
Donegal beat Tyrone in 2004 at the semi-final stage but they were soundly beaten by Armagh in the decider.
Last Five Championship Clashes
2007: Tyrone 2-15 Donegal 1-7 (2007 Ulster semi-final)
2004: Donegal 1-11 Tyrone 0-9 (Ulster semi-final)
1994: Tyrone 1-15 Donegal 0-10 (Ulster semi-final)
1989: Tyrone 2-13 Donegal 0-7 (Ulster final replay)
1989: Tyrone 0-11 Donegal 0-11 (Ulster final)
Much has been made about Donegal’s ‘defensive’ style of play but the fact remains that they have scored 3-24 in two Championship games thus far. Their game-plan involves a massive amount of running with Karl Lacey and Kevin Cassidy bombing forward at every opportunity – usually after the half-forward line has filtered back behind the ball to cause a turnover of possession.
With the amount of mileage this Tyrone team has on the clock it remains to be seen whether they have the legs to match Donegal’s intensity for 70 minutes.
Also, watch out for an interesting battle on the sidelines as master tactician Mickey Harte comes up against the new kid on the block in Jim McGuinness.
Donegal appear to have a clean bill of health after defender Frank McGlynn, who sat out the quarter-final tie against Cavan, returned to training.
With Michael Murphy also cleared to play, Donegal should line up with a potent full-forward line containing Colm McFadden and teenager Patrick McBrearty.
Tyrone boss Mickey Harte should once again look to his experienced and reliable troops as they bid for their third consecutive Ulster title. Joe McMahon returns from a broken jaw and Kevin Hughes is drafted into midfield for the injured Aidan Cassidy.
Tyrone: P McConnell; M Swift, J McMahon, R McMenamin; D Harte, C Gormley, P Jordan; K Hughes, S Cavanagh; B Dooher, B McGuigan, P Harte; M Penrose, S O’Neill, M Donnelly.
The winner of this contest will join Derry in the Ulster GAA Football Senior Championship final. With Tyrone going for three in a row and Donegal looking to end a drought going back to 1992, this game is sure to be an interesting battle.