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Dr McKenna Cup semi-final looks set to be phoney war in the snow

By Declan Bogue

A quick look at the weather forecast online for Ballybofey tonight, just as the ball is thrown in for the start of the second Dr McKenna Cup semi-final between Armagh and Donegal, makes for sobering reading.

The wind will be mild, but there is a 97% chance that it will snow, casting doubt over whether the game will be staged or not, and the inevitable pitch inspection earlier that day will be a keen source of interest.

In any case, what we have here is an example of two teams that may almost be tempted to take a dive when they look at the prize on offer - a trimming by a Tyrone team that are constantly a gear or two above others in January and the prospect of more injuries ahead of the National League opening rounds.

Seven days after the final, Armagh begin their Division Three campaign by hosting Sligo in the Athletic Grounds before travelling to Westmeath a week later. If manager Kieran McGeeney is to distinguish his fourth year in charge of his native county with promotion, these games are absolutely vital.

In the first year of his second spell in charge, Donegal manager Declan Bonner will be extremely keen to get his time off to a good start in the league.

They begin with a seriously difficult game away to Kerry before facing Galway at home.

A free weekend giving them time to prepare for these games would be crucial. Team shape, tactics and a proper training week geared towards keeping players fresh would be their preference.

Therefore, why would either of them want to play their third game in a week in dreadful conditions on Sunday with a 4.30pm throw-in? The following two nights would be taken up with recovery, before strategy and some video work comes into the equation later in the week.

This shows the futility of the January competitions now that the calendar year has had such a revamp. It wouldn't surprise anyone if a team or two dropped out next season or chose to play under-21 or second string teams.

In the meantime, Armagh and Donegal will play out a phoney war in the snow, the players all the while hoping to show enough to be retained for the league, while the management don't really want to go to another Sunday and a final against Tyrone.

Belfast Telegraph

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