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GAA Football

Ulster SFC: Donegal v Fermanagh analysis

Ryan McHugh's potential battle with Fermanagh's Paul McCusker could be pivotal on Sunday
Picture by Margaret McLaughlin
 

TEAM TALK

Donegal: MA McGinley; P McGrath, N McGee, K Lacey; R McHugh, F McGlynn, A Thompson; R Kavanagh, H McFadden; L McLoone, M McElhinney, O Mac Niallais; P McBrearty, M Murphy, M O’Reilly

WITH his wife due to give birth on Sunday, Eamon McGee is only named among the substitutes, but could well come into the starting side on the day if circumstances allow.

His omission sees Karl Lacey named at corner-back, with Anthony Thompson returning to the side at wing-half. Hugh McFadden will make his first Championship start alongside Rory Kavanagh in midfield as Neil Gallagher misses out with a troublesome Achilles injury.

Michael Murphy is named on the edge of the square and Martin O’Reilly gets the nod over Eoin McHugh in the corner. Mark Anthony McGinley takes the number one jersey ahead of Peter Boyle.

 

Fermanagh: C Snow; M Jones, C Cullen, M O’Brien; D McCusker, J McMahon, B Mulrone; E Donnelly, A Breen; P McCusker, R Jones, R O’Callaghan; R Corrigan, S Quigley, T Corrigan

AS EXPECTED, there is little in the way of change made by Pete McGrath from their win over Antrim, with just one switch in personnel.

Richard O’Callaghan comes into the half-forward line in place of Ryan Lyons, who made his Championship debut in that game last month. O’Callaghan is likely to go to midfield, though whether it’s Aidan Breen or Paul McCusker who moves to wing-back remains to be seen.

James McMahon will again operate as the sweeper, with Breen the more likely candidate to revert to wing-back and allow Barry Mulrone to move to the centre.

Niall Cassidy and Conall Jones have to be content with seats on the bench.

 

DONEGAL TACTICAL TAKE

MICHAEL MURPHY is named at 14 and, with an ankle injury still hanging over him, it’s possible he could actually play a chunk of it on the edge of the square.

Hugh McFadden will drop deep from midfield and Martin McElhinney is also likely to roam back into his own defence when they lose the ball. Patrick McBrearty will form the pivot of their attack, while Odhrán Mac Nialais will go towards his midfield and Martin O’Reilly will come out into the half-forward line.

Karl Lacey is almost certain to operate as the free man when Fermanagh drop one of their own back, though it’s likely he’ll be on an almost exclusively defensive brief.

They will need to create plenty of alternative options on their own kickouts to prevent any pressure building on rookie number one Mark Anthony McGinley.

 

FERMANAGH TACTICAL TAKE

THEY will hope the watershed moment that was their first Championship game under Pete McGrath will bear its fruit on Sunday afternoon.

Defeat by Antrim, conceding 2-18, persuaded players and management that a tighter gameplan was required. They’ve become increasingly hard to break down, but this is the acid test.

James McMahon will hold the fort and having Ché Cullen at full-back could alleviate the threat of the high ball on top of a small defence. They will need to ensure he stays on the edge of the square if Donegal try and rotate their forwards to isolate a smaller defender inside, as they did against Armagh last year.

It will be Sean Quigley and Tomás Corrigan carrying the scoring threat inside as ever.

 

MAN OF THE MOMENT

Tomás Corrigan
SLOWLY but surely, Tomás Corrigan is turning the national consciousness away from the notion that Fermanagh’s forward line relies solely on Sean Quigley for scores.

His two efforts from the sideline against Fermanagh were rare moments that transcended the mediocrity of the game itself. He hit nine points in total against the Saffrons.

The Kinawley native will be a marked man in Ballybofey and it will be his first taste of the Donegal defensive structure. Their success arguably relies more now on him than Quigley.

 

KEY BATTLE

Paul McCusker v Ryan McHugh
McCUSKER’S performance was one of the high points of Fermanagh’s win over Antrim as he provided them with a 13-to-13 energy that would have left him with blistered feet on the hard Brewster Park surface.

That display is almost certainly going to see Ryan McHugh put on him, in a bid to force the Ederney man on to the back foot. But Fermanagh’s tendency to draw McCusker deep when they are defending could give McHugh a bit of freedom that he is more than capable of exploiting.

 

WEATHER WATCH

Looks like we’ve been too spoilt for too long.

The incessant, un-Irish sunshine is set to be interrupted by showers and there could be a considerable breeze in Mac Cumhaill Park, which is set for a top temperature of 15 degrees.

 

WHO’S THE REF?

Maurice Deegan (Laois)
THE experienced Laois whistler refereed Donegal’s 2012 All-Ireland final win over Mayo.

That was his second decider. Did Tír Chonaill’s league opener with Dublin this season and Fermanagh’s Ulster Championship opener with Antrim last year.

No longer at the peak of his powers, but still one of the more reliable officials.

 

LAST CHAMPIONSHIP MEETING

2006 All-Ireland Qualifiers round four: Fermanagh 0-8 Donegal 0-11
ALL of the pre-match expectations were there would be little in the way of entertainment in Brewster Park and they proved on the money as Donegal used the suspension of Paddy Campbell to motivate them.

Fermanagh actually led by 0-5 to 0-3 at the interval, but they sorely lacked the zip in defence needed to protect such a slender advantage after the interval.

Christy Toye and Rory Kavanagh - who could both feature on Sunday - forced Donegal ahead and, with Neil Gallagher sublime in the middle, they finished the stronger to progress to an All-Ireland quarter-final with Cork.

 

LAST 10 CHAMPIONSHIP MEETINGS
2006 All-Ireland Qualifiers round four: Fermanagh 0-8 Donegal 0-11; 2004 All-Ireland Qualifiers round four: Donegal 0-12 Fermanagh 1-10; 2003 Ulster SFC quarter-final: Donegal 0-6 Fermanagh 0-10; 2001 All-Ireland Qualifiers round one: Donegal 0-15 Fermanagh 1-6; 2001 Ulster SFC preliminary round replay: Donegal 0-11 Fermanagh 1-9; 2001 Ulster SFC preliminary round: Donegal 1-16 Fermanagh 2-13; 2000 Ulster SFC quarter-final: Donegal 0-13 Fermanagh 1-12; 1992 Ulster SFC semi-final: Donegal 2-17 Fermanagh 0-7; 1991 Ulster SFC semi-final: Donegal 1-18 Fermanagh 0-13; 1966 Ulster SFC semi-final: Donegal 4-17 Fermanagh 1-8

 

BETTING BOX

Match betting
Donegal 1/6; Draw 12/1; Fermanagh 5/1

Handicap betting
Donegal (-5) 10/11; Draw (-5) 10/1; Fermanagh (+5) 11/10

First goalscorer
Patrick McBrearty 11/2; Sean Quigley 15/2; No goalscorer 9/2

GAA Football
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