Magnificent Monaghan silenced all the doubters
On the ball
As I have said all along in this column I fancied Monaghan to do well this year in the championship but their display yesterday exceeded everything. I knew that they would put it up to Donegal for most of the game but I still thought that they would maybe come up short in the end but hats off to them, it was a wonderful performance and I'm particularly delighted for my old fried Ryan Porter.
Ryan and Malachy O'Rourke have done a tremendous job and they deserve as much credit as the players.
There is no doubt that they looked at Donegal's display against Down and saw weaknesses in their set up and they came up with a game plan to exploit those and it worked.
The media had Donegal built up as a superhuman side and perhaps they got carried away a little and their narrow win over Down only papered over the cracks.
For the first time Donegal had to chase the game and they looked as though they hadn't the legs for it and they certainly came off second best in the hunger stakes against their opponents. Donegal are usually so efficient in front of the posts but their danger men never got a look in with Drew Wylie and Colin Walshe both outstanding.
Walshe marked Dunne out of it in their semi-final win over Cavan and he did the same on McBrearty and at the moment I would say that he is one of the best corner backs in the country.
Dessie Mone, Darren Hughes, Conor McManus and Kieran Hughes were others who stood out for me in a fine all round team display.
In the first half Monaghan played 15 men behind the ball and Donegal struggled to cope with it. They kept taking the ball into the tackle and losing possession and that has been so unlike Donegal this past few years.
Neil Gallagher made a big difference for them when he came on and I would say that he was the best midfielder on show but too many of the leaders on the Donegal side didn't show up.
It will be interesting to see what Monaghan do from here though. A lot of their players have played a long time to get that elusive Ulster senior medal and the big question is will they push on and try and make at least the semi-finals. There is no doubt that's what their management team will be aiming for.
Donegal have only a six day turnaround until they play Laois and Jim McGuinness could have a job on his hands. They would not have expected to be beaten and other sides will be sitting up and looking at this game knowing how to take Donegal on now. Laois had a good win over Wexford but I still feel that Donegal will have too much for them.
Mickey Harte's Tyrone (pictured below with Kildare boss Kieran McGeeney) are now in a better place than Donegal after their hard fought win in Kildare.
They set up with big Joe as a sweeper and it worked well although my one concern is that they again only played for one half and that won't be good enough from here on in. The last time that they played for the full 70 minutes was in the league final and that is something that they will have to address as they go forward but they should beat Meath.
Cavan continue to improve and scoring 1-22 in Derry is no mean feat. They will make the quarter-finals and that will be a great achievement for them. Derry will be disappointed as no doubt they were fancied to make the last eight but it's perhaps a reality check for them as to were they are at the moment.
Armagh are in a similar boat as after two comfortable victories in the qualifiers against poor opposition they were found wanting when they met a decent side and I would say they are probably a year or two behind Cavan in their development just at the moment.