GAA stars give their verdict on the Ulster Senior Football Championship final

Andy Watters

This week we asked a panel of GAA stars for their views on the Ulster Senior Football Championship final.

1: Who do you think will win?

2: Will it be a runaway victory?

3: Which players will have the greatest impact on the outcome?

4: Who will be top scorer?

5: How far can the teams go in the All-Ireland Championship?

Chris Lawn (Tyrone)

I’ll go for Donegal. Can’t see a runaway victory though.

Fermanagh will set up very defensive. Murphy will try to pull the strings around the middle but Gallagher could have plans for him, like the look of Donnelly at midfield, but it’s going come down to the free takers I would imagine.

Top scorer McBrearty and Donegal for the Top 8, Fermanagh could win a game or two in the Qualifiers.

Ciaran McKeever (Armagh)

My head's telling me Donegal, but I've a feeling Fermanagh will get their first Ulster title this weekend.

It'll be far from a run away victory. It has the hallmarks of an intense, low-scoring affair but it'll be an intriguing tactical battle throughout.

It's going to come down to a number of positions and the right match ups throughout the pitch.

Pat Cadden's kickouts will have a major bearing on the outcome because this is an area where Donegal are very strong at going after opposition kickouts.

Jones and Donnelly in the middle will need to have a big game.

Fermanagh need to get all their match-ups right on Murphy, McBreathy, Odhran MacNiallais, Ryan McHugh, etc.

This has been a strength to date for Fermanagh by getting these right in the Championship.

And you'd imagine Rory Gallagher knows the Donegal players inside out.

So he'll know what players need tagged throughout the match.

Neil McGee absent at full-back will be a worrying concern for Donegal on Sunday.

Their defence has been suspect throughout the league and in patches in the Championship to date.

Sunday will possibly come down to the dead ball specialists, so this will be a battle between Quigley, Murphy and McBrearty.

Quarter finals and over the course of the super 8s, Donegal possibly to break into the top four.

Enda Lynn (Derry)

Donegal are very strong in all positions and will win but I don't think they will run away with it.

Fermanagh will keep it tight for 50mins bur Donegal will come through by around six points.

Ryan McHugh, Micheal Murphy and Paddy McBrearty will be the difference in the result with Murphy looking back to his best again.

Donegal can come out of the Super 8s and book a place in the semi-final.

As for Fermanagh?

They will be pushing to reach the Super 8s.

Chris Kerr (Antrim)

I’d love to see Fermanagh win they have been excellent and so well organised.

I have a soft spot for an underdog, plus Rory and Ronan Gallagher both played at St Gall's.

I can see Donegal getting home by three or four points.

Their big game experience is massive and the quality they have I think will get them over the line.

I think it will be tight for 50-60mins and then expect Donegal to kick on.

I’ve been really impressed with Fermanagh's middle eight.

Their work rate and attitude are second to none. Obviously the Quigley’s carry a massive threat and are class acts but the boys around the middle set the tone for them.

Donegal have been notoriously strong defensively for the best part of a decade now. They don’t get enough credit for how they attack, and they constantly unearth new players who can add to their attacking game also.

They don’t just rely on Murphy and McBrearty. I can see McBrearty and the Quigley’s top scoring.

It’s difficult to know. There is no reason Donegal cant get to a semi final or final!

Brian Neeson (Antrim)

It's Donegal for me by at least six points with Murphy and McHugh having the greatest impact on the result.

Paddy McBrearty will top score for them in the final and if they avoid Dublin no reason Donegal can't make it all the way to the All-Ireland final.

Yvonne Bonner (Donegal ladies football sharp shooter)

It's Donegal for me. If Donegal get a good start it’s going to be hard for Fermanagh to contain our forwards as the game goes on.

Michael Murphy and Frank McGlynn will have a major impact on the outcome with Paddy McBrearty in line to top score.

Donegal are in with a strong chance of making the semi-finals while if Fermanagh win on Sunday, their confidence will be very high and not every team will want to play them

Gerard O'Kane (Derry)

I think Donegal will win virtue of the fact that they are the form team in Ulster this year.

In three games so far they have posted an average of 2-19 per game with 95 per cent of that coming from play, whereas Fermanagh have posted 11 points on average in their two games.

Fermanagh therefore need to limit Donegal to half the scores they have been getting so far and while I admire their defensive work and their hard tackling, I do feel this will be too big of a task.

I don’t see a runaway victory in terms of performance but the scoreboard might show six or seven points in the end up.

Donegal will be in the lead coming down the home stretch, Fermanagh will push on to chase the game and Donegal might pick off a few scores to put a gloss on it.

Ryan McHugh has been immense for Donegal but this one might come down to the midfield (MF) and fill-forward (FF) lines of each team.

Fermanagh have a strong MF pairing but Donegal can match them in this area.

How Fermanagh match up to the Donegal FF line, and in particular the role of James McMahon at number six for Fermanagh, will be crucial.

Paddy McBrearty is the obvious choice for top scorer so I will plump for him.

After watching him live against Derry, it’s certainly a case of thinking you have him tied up, facing away from goal, then he manoeuvres a yard of space and can screw one over from most angles...he is also good for a few frees too.

I would expect Donegal to reach the All-Ireland semi-final at least.

They have enough fire-power to get over the weekend and in the Super 8s I feel they will get through a group with possibly Dublin and two others in it. They have a super record in Ballybofey so getting a home game there is massive for them

As for Fermanagh; I expect them to be in the mix for the Super 8 but that might be their limit.

I’m just not sure they are set up to be scoring the 16-17 points needed from the quarter-final stage onwards to progress beyond this.

Paul Finlay (Monaghan)

I’ve backed Fermanagh from the start so I will stick with them.

There are lots of reasons why Donegal should win but I’ve had a sneaky feeling about Fermanagh this year and they have proved me right so far.

They will need a huge performance from 1-20 in order to claim their first Ulster title.

Eoin Donnelly is an inspirational player and if he can get the best out of himself, I can see the rest of the players lifting their game to get Fermanagh across the line by a point or two.

Donegal can reach the All-Ireland semi-finals through the back door and Fermanagh to exit after the Super 8.

Aine McGovern (Fermanagh’s All-Ireland Junior-winning captain 2017)

I think Fermanagh will win. It will be tight enough with no more than five points between the teams at the final whistle.

I think the work rate of the Fermanagh wing half-forwards will have a tough job as the Donegal wing half-back line will be hard to stop attacking.

Donegal and Fermanagh both have a sharp full-forward line which will have a huge impact on the game which I feel Fermanagh full back will be able to handle.

Top scorers will be Micheal Murphy and Sean Quigley and both teams could go far in the All-Ireland Championship if they get a good draw.

Eoin Bradley (Derry and Coleraine FC)

I think Donegal will win.

Fermanagh will be hard to crack because of the way they play, but Donegal are used to teams playing like that.

It's kind of obvious that when Michael Murphy plays well, Donegal play well.

McBrearty and McHugh are important players as well. Paddy is probably the best forward in Ireland along with Conor McManus at the minute.

I think Donegal will make the last four. Fermanagh will do well and can surprise some of the teams later in the Championship.

I think their manager is quality but I think they will come up short this time by five or six points... but what would I know, I'm a soccer player.

Sé McGuigan (Derry)

It has to be Donegal and by a runaway score.

Ryan McHugh will have the biggest influence in the result but Micheal Murphy will to score against Fermanagh.

Once out of Ulster, Donegal could go as far as the All-Ireland semi-final and I don't see Fermanagh making the super 8.

Mark Poland (Down)

I'm taking Donegal to win. I think the nature of the result will rest on how long Fermanagh can keep them at bay.

If Donegal get the start they got last time out it will be hard for Fermanagh to muster the scores to outscore them but if they can keep it tight like they did against Monaghan then it may come down to the accuracy of the free takers in both teams.

I was very impressed with Donegal against Down.

They pressed the kickouts very well, were excellent in possession and didn’t let losing a man affect them in any way.

They were ruthless in all aspects of their play.

Both teams have huge leaders in their packs and it will come down to those players again to lead the way for their respective teams. Rory Gallagher will know everything about Donegal but I think the extra quality they have will shine through.

Conleith Gilligan (Derry)

Donegal look better equipped to win this game ... but Fermanagh will be able to keep it tight for long periods and deserve a lot of credit. Midfield will be massive for both teams with Fermanagh having the edge but McBrearty's ability to score will be the difference, along with Murphy's frees.

Both teams can be in the Super 8s but a semi-final is possibly the best they can hope for this season.

Both sides will really improve with the experience gained by two young-enough teams.

Rory Dunne (Cavan)

I think both teams will go into this game believing they’ve a great chance of success.

Fermanagh will be full of confidence after their last two wins and Seamus Quigley is a massive addition to them for the final.

However if they dont rack up scores early on I think they’re going to find them hard to come by as the game goes on because of the way they play.

They place such emphasis on curtailing the oppositions scoring chances, that when they do create their own they’re going to have to make sure they take them.

Donegal on the other hand are also a team full of confidence and have being flying to date in the Ulster Championship.

I saw them play against Cavan and I thought Michael Murphy was back to playing some of his best football

If he performs like that on Sunday, I just can’t see Fermanagh being able to deal with him (he is to Donegal what Ronaldo is to Portugal).

I think Fermanagh will want to keep the game as tight as possible for as long as possible but if the Donegal forwards are on their game, they could wrap this up with time to spare.

Paddy McBrearty will obviously look to rack up a big score and I’m sure he’ll get on the end of a lot of good plays but Michael Murphy is still the go to man for Donegal.

While he’ll probably spend plenty of time roaming round out the field, I wouldn’t be surprised if he finished with a big scoreline to his name.

All in all, I think Donegal are going to win this one but Fermanagh have absolutely nothing to fear and they’ll know they have an unbelievable opportunity to finally get over the line.

Re the Super 8s, I think Donegal have a squad there that are more than capable of competing.

They also have plenty of experience in their team which is so important so I wouldn’t be surprised to see them in an All-Ireland semi-final this year.

Fermanagh however, I don’t think will have the strength in depth to compete in the Super 8s.

I think it’ll be a step too far for them.

I really hope it’s a cracker of a game come Sunday.

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