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Donegal, Armagh, Monaghan and Tyrone prove to be top 10 hit

By John Campbell

Four Ulster teams – Donegal, Armagh, Monaghan and Tyrone – are included in the latest top 10 football rankings, thus underlining that football in the province is currently in rude health.

All four, though, clearly share a marked desire to show a further improvement in 2015.

Donegal boss Jim McGuinness may have steered his side into the All-Ireland final in which they will meet Kerry on Sunday week yet he is already urging a step-up in performance that he feels is required if the Sam Maguire Cup is to be collected for the second time in three years.

Far from wallowing in satisfaction following his team's stunning semi-final win over Dublin, McGuinness cuts to the quick when asked if that particular performance rated as his team's best of recent times.

"It rates absolutely nowhere because we are now preparing for an All- Ireland final. If we are unable to go on and win it, this would be crushing, absolutely crushing, and I know that Kerry will be thinking the same," insists McGuinness.

"We need to make every second count from now until the final and try and get everything right. If we can do that we will then be able to deliver a performance and if we do this and we come up short, then we will just shake hands and leave it there.

"If we deliver a performance that gets us over the line then that's it, it's done."

Monaghan manager Malachy O'Rourke is hoping that the added experience which his side gained this year will stand them in good stead for 2015 and he believes that the quarter-final defeat to Dublin underlined the extent of work that has to be done.

"We held them for the first 20 minutes or so but then they began to attack in waves and when they are in that mood they are difficult to contain," observes O'Rourke.

New Armagh manager Kieran McGeeney and Tyrone boss Mickey Harte share a similar task right now. Both are engaged in compiling their respective backroom teams and given the important role that such personnel now play in the modern game, it is no surprise that neither manager is in any haste to show his hand in this connection.

McGeeney is particularly anxious to see Armagh build on the progress they have made since the start of the championship season following their demotion in the league while Harte is hopeful that Tyrone can get among the silverware again having last taken delivery of the All-Ireland crown in 2008.

The Ulster Championship title was captured in 2009 and 2010 but such an honour, while always welcome, no longer sates the appetite of the demanding O'Neill County followers.

Both Harte and McGeeney will now focus sharply on the closing stages of their respective county championships in their bid to fashion panels that might bring success when the new season dawns.

Harte will take in the domestic championship final later this month between Omagh St Enda's and Carrickmore, a match in which a plethora of established county players and several aspiring newcomers will be involved.

The McMahon brothers Justin and Joe along with Barry Tierney, Conor Grugan and Ronan O'Neill will be in the vanguard of Omagh's challenge while Carrickmore will be bolstered by Conor Gormley, Martin Penrose and Mark Donnelly.

Belfast Telegraph

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