GAA Football

A bad time to get the Dubs? Donegal take on resurgent Dublin at Croke Park

Midfielder Brian Fenton was part of Dublin's resurgence in Omagh last weekend. Picture: Seamus Loughran.

Allianz National Football League Division One: Dublin v Donegal (tomorrow, Croke Park, 3.45pm, live on TG4)

THERE have been a few good times to play Dublin over the last two months but, regrettably for Donegal, Sunday is unlikely to be one of them.

The Dubs remain in serious danger of something that a couple of seasons ago would have been an unimaginable - relegation from Division One - but after four defeats in which the once mighty ‘Boys in Blue' looked disjointed and lacking in confidence, they finally found their feet in Omagh last weekend.

Dublin's first win of the season doesn't mean the boys are back in town but it will certainly have stoked up their engine for a home match against a hot-and-cold Donegal side that lost their proud 12-year unbeaten record at Ballybofey when they were beaten by Monaghan last weekend.

Hampered by injury problems to the likes of Michael Langan, Caolan McGonagle, Ciaran Thompson, Oisin Gallen and Niall O'Donnell, Declan Bonner's side has looked desperately poor at times so far this season. There is no doubting the talent in the Tir Chonaill ranks but, and we keep saying this, Donegal look leaderless without Michael Murphy unless Paddy McBrearty has the ball in his hands.

It's an indication of the ability in the side that, despite their inconsistency, Donegal are sitting fourth in the table on five points and could even mount a late challenge for the top two if results go their way and they find their form.

Bonner's side has beaten Kildare and Tyrone this season and also drew away to Mayo but their manager needs more end product from his men tomorrow.

Meanwhile, despite what some said about splitting their county in two, Dublin's era of domination was never going to last forever but who could have predicted their struggles in the first four rounds of fixtures?

Armagh ruthlessly exposed their limitations in the first round of games and defeats to Kerry (by seven points), Mayo (by five) and then Kildare (by three) followed before Dessie Farrell's struggling outfit arrived at Healy Park last weekend.

Tyrone have lost the sparkle that saw them win the Sam Maguire last year but Omagh is never an easy place to get a result. There was an air of determination about the way Dublin began the game and they set out to prove that rumours of their demise had been greatly exaggerated with a terrific start that saw them post 10 points from play in the first 25 minutes. Tyrone did close the gap but the Dubs stopped the rot and they began to look more like their old selves.

There were signs that Brian Fenton was running into good form. Jonny Cooper was back in defence, James McCarthy came off the bench as did Eoin Murchan and Ciaran Kilkenny, Cormac Costello, Dean Rock, Niall Scully and Brian Howard all impressed over 70 morale-boosting minutes.

Two more wins will give Dublin every chance of survival and against a team playing for their Division One lives, Donegal will struggle to post a total to match them tomorrow unless they add some cutting edge to their back-and-across possession game.

At full strength, the expanses of Croke Park would suit Donegal's athletic running style but they're a long way from that. Murphy and Jamie Brennan did return against Monaghan last weekend and Brennan's pace would be a bonus but the Dubs will sense opportunity here against a side that seems so reluctant to kick the ball into their full-forward line.

The Dubs will be intent on bottling Donegal runners up and hitting them on the break and if they get off to a good start, a tough afternoon is in store for the Ulstermen.

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GAA Football