GAA Football

Ulster SFC quarter-final, Derry v Donegal - all the stats and analysis

Chrissy McKaigue is expected to be pitted against Michael Murphy at Celtic Park tomorrow. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin
Neil Loughran

MAN OF THE MOMENT

Michael Murphy (Donegal)

THE Glenswilly man looked rusty at times through the League, but he was back to his best against Cavan a fortnight ago.

Operating largely between centre-forward and midfield, the Breffnimen just didn't know what to do with him. When he was being closely watched he dropped back and got on the ball, spraying beautiful passes and beginning moves.

With the talents of Ciaran Thompson, Michael Langan, Jamie Brennan and super-sub Cian Mulligan flourishing alongside Paddy McBrearty, Bonner has no shortage of attacking options,

Therefore any lingering notions of standing Murphy on the end of the square must surely be at an end.

TEAM TALK

Derry

THE Derry team that takes the field at Celtic Park tomorrow will bear little resemblance to the 15 that finished the League against Sligo. The full-back line is all Slaughtneil, while Chrissy McKaigue and Sean Leo McGoldrick are huge additions in the half-back line. Conor McAtamney picked up a knock in a challenge game against Castlebar last weekend but should be okay to start.

Derry (probable): B McKinless; K McKaigue, B Rogers, P McNeill; K Johnston, C McKaigue, SL McGoldrick; E Bradley, C McAtamney; E Lynn, P Cassidy, L McGoldrick; S McGuigan, M Lynch, N Toner

Donegal

ALLSTAR defender Paddy McGrath is expected to come into the full-back line after missing out against Cavan, although it remains to be seen whether Declan Bonner can crowbar Odhran Mac Niallais into a forward line that did little wrong the last day.

Paul Brennan could drop back, possibly at the expense of Leo McLoone, to accommodate the Gweedore forward. McGrath, meanwhile, is likely to come in for Stephen McMenamin, with Eoghan Gallagher moving into wing-back.

Donegal (probable): S Patton; P McGrath, N McGee, C Ward; E Gallagher, L McLoone, R McHugh; H McFadden, M Murphy; F McGlynn, P Brennan, M Langan; C Thompson, P McBrearty, J Brennan

KEY BATTLE

Michael Murphy (Donegal) v Chrissy McKaigue (Derry)

CAVAN weren't sure how to handle Murphy a fortnight ago, with Oisin Kiernan initially handed the task of curbing his influence but finishing a distant second as the Donegal captain roamed here, there and everywhere.

Murphy finished with three points from play, was deadly accurate from frees and found himself at the epicentre of everything good in a decisive Donegal performance.

The question for Derry is - how do you stop him without sacrificing one of your better players to the cause? Last year Chrissy McKaigue was detailed to follow Mattie Donnelly everywhere in Derry's Ulster opener against Tyrone.

And while that pair cancelled each other out, the Oak Leafs still lost by 11 points. The Slaughtneil ace is expected to start on Murphy today but, as his performances with the club have shown in recent years, McKaigue is so much more than a destroyer.

If he can force Murphy onto the back foot with those trademark driving runs from deep, it could be huge for Derry.

TACTICAL TAKE

Derry

IN keeping with the way he set up the successful minor teams under his charge, Damian McErlain opted for an open style of football through the National League, a risky policy when also integrating a number of new players into the fold.

The net result was relegation to Division Four, conceding 11 goals along the way and finishing the League with the joint worst defensive record in the country – alongside Donegal, who were relegated from Division One.

Yet while they may have conceded freely, the Tir Chonaill men are potent in attack, and the Oak Leafs surely cannot afford to go man for man in a game of this magnitude, against a forward line full of pace, power and scoring threat.

However, the Derry team that starts tomorrow will be markedly different to that which competed in most of the League, boosted by the experience of the Slaughtneil contingent and the returning Sean Leo McGoldrick.

Donegal

IN recent years it has been said that, when Paddy McBrearty fails to fire, Donegal are in trouble. The Kilcar ace didn't get off the mark until the game was already well won against Cavan, with the likes of Ciaran Thompson, Michael Langan, Lee Brennan and Michael Murphy doing the damage.

They now have a wealth of attacking options, with Odhran Mac Niallais also pushing for a return to the fold, although it should not be overlooked how disappointing Cavan were in Ballybofey, and how easily Donegal got so many of their scores.

Declan Bonner's men conceded and scored plenty through the League, but there were signs of greater defensive cohesion the last day as they swarmed blue bodies time and again before turning over possession.

If it ain't broke, don't fix it, and Donegal are likely to try and play to their attacking strengths today.

LAST 10 IN THE CHAMPIONSHIP

2015 Ulster SFC semi-final: Derry 0-10 Donegal 1-9

2014 Ulster SFC quarter-final: Derry 0-11 Donegal 1-11

2012 Ulster SFC quarter-final: Derry 0-9 Donegal 2-13

2011 Ulster SFC final: Derry 0-8 Donegal 1-11

2009 All-Ireland qualifying round three: Derry 0-18 Donegal 2-13

2008 Ulster SFC quarter-final: Derry 1-14 Donegal 1-12

2006 Ulster SFC semi-final: Derry 0-11 Donegal 1-13

2002 Ulster SFC semi-final: Derry 0-10 Donegal 1-9

1998 Ulster SFC final: Derry 1-7 Donegal 0-8

1993 Ulster SFC final: Derry 0-8 Donegal 0-6

WEATHER WATCH

COULD be a few clouds kicking about the sky but the sun will be out at Celtic Park tomorrow afternoon, with temperatures of 20 degrees or so estimated, as well as a bit of a breeze. Perfect playing conditions.

WHO'S THE REF?

Maurice Deegan (Laois)

THE Laois whistler had his fair share of headlines through the years, and during the League was caught up in a storm when Mayo's Andy Moran appeared to give him a gentle push during their clash with Tyrone in Castlebar.

Will hope that tomorrow's game passes off without incident but a couple of fiery clashes late on in the last Championship meeting between these two three years ago suggests he could be busy enough.

LAST CHAMPIONSHIP MEETING

June 27, 2015 - Ulster SFC semi-final: Derry 0-10 Donegal 1-9

IN the first year post-Jim McGuinness, Donegal survived a spirited challenge from Derry at Celtic Park to reach a fifth Ulster final in-a-row.

Rory Gallagher's Tir Chonaill men did the damage in a 10-minute spell after half-time, outscoring Derry by 1-3 to 0-1. The sides were level at 0-5 apiece at the break but Marty Reilly's 45th minute goal was a major breakthrough.

The Oak Leafs picked up two black cards late on with Brendan Rogers, playing only his second ever game for Derry, going off for a foul on Odhran Mac Niallais that sparked a 66th minute melee.

After things calmed down, Ciaran McFaul's challenge on Ryan McHugh sparked another row and saw the player pick up Derry's second black card in the 69th minute.

BETTING BOX

Derry 9/2

Donegal 1/6

Draw 12/1

Worth a punt

Draw HT/Donegal FT 10/1

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