Sunday 17 December 2017

Big match preview


Donegal v Dublin, Croke Park, 3.30,

M Deegan (Laois), *Live RTE 2

THE law of averages, something that should never be overlooked in predicting the outcome of sporting events, points conclusively to a Dublin win.

Three All-Ireland semi-final defeats since 2006 are being used in some quarters to make a case against Dublin when, in all probability, the opposite applies. After all, every sequence has an ending and while that might appear a weak basis to predict a Dublin victory, it comes only as part of a package of advantages they take into the game.

Most of the Dublin team gained valuable experience against Cork last year when they played very well for 65 minutes before being out-manoeuvred on the home run, they have been consistently efficient all year, and Croke Park is now very much their home ground. That's three plus points for Dublin against a Donegal team who are new to this level.

They have adapted well to their exciting surroundings and will get better, but this test may have come too soon for them, especially since Dublin appear to be more powerful than last year. Not that everything should be judged on Dublin's demolition of Tyrone, who turned in their worst performance in Croke Park for a long time in the quarter-final.

Tyrone sent reputations out to do a job that required more than self-belief and experience. Donegal are short on the latter but are up on confidence, while their energy levels are remarkable.

For all that, their vaunted defensive game is about to encounter heavier artillery than before. Dublin's attack have expert finishers in the Brogan brothers and Diarmuid Connolly and the half-forwards, while not being especially prolific, generate momentum which creates openings for the inside snipers.

Donegal have good finishers, too, in Michael Murphy and Colm McFadden, but they need a quicker supply than they've been getting so far. Donegal have to be more direct at times, but that creates its own risks as Dublin are good on the counter-attack.

Donegal's tightly controlled game has taken them all the way to the semi-final, leading to high hopes in the county. Still, it's a tall order against a Dublin team that is further down the road. Ultimately, that could prove the match-winning difference.

2011 C'ship: Donegal 1-10 Antrim 0-7; Donegal 2-14 Cavan 1-8; Donegal 2-6 Tyrone 0-9; Donegal 1-11 Derry 0-8; Donegal 1-12 Kildare 0-14 (aet).

Dublin 1-16 Laois 0-11; Dublin 1-12 Kildare 1-11; Dublin 2-12 Wexford 1-12; Dublin 0-22 Tyrone 0-15.

Last C'ship clash: Dublin 1-14 Donegal 0-7 (2002 All-Ireland

quarter-final replay)

Odds: Dublin 2/5; Donegal 11/4; Draw 15/2

Verdict: Dublin

Dublin -- S Cluxton; C O'Sullivan, R O'Carroll, M Fitzsimons; J McCarthy, G Brennan, K Nolan; D Bastick, MD Macauley; P Flynn, B Cahill, B Cullen; A Brogan, D Connolly, B Brogan.

Donegal -- TBC


Irish Independent

Promoted Links

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Promoted Links

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport