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Four Ulster finals in a row is special achievement

By Ryan McMenamin

Donegal went into yesterday's game on a hiding to nothing as they had everything to lose and nothing really to gain and you have to give them credit for the way they went about their business.

If they had only won by a point or two, the critics would have been after them and if they won comfortably, the same people would have said that was expected.

You have to take your hat off to their squad and Jim McGuinness because to reach four Ulster finals in a row is some achievement. The other Provinces still look at Ulster in envy as it is by far the most competitive championship when you consider Tyrone played three times and didn't reach the semi-final, while Cork and Kerry are in the Munster final after just one game.

Donegal had been written off in some quarters before this season but McGuinness has used that to his advantage and I would say that he possibly has a stronger squad than the side that won the All-Ireland two years ago. Crucially, he has no injuries.

Just look at the players he was able to call off the bench against Antrim to finish the job. Guys like Brick Molloy, who will feel that he has a point to prove, while the addition of young Darach O'Connor to their panel is also a big plus for them.

Antrim played some good football in the first half and would have been delighted to have went in at the break on level terms, but they aren't the first team who have suffered with Donegal's third quarter press.

In Australian Rules they say the third quarter is the most important one and that's the way Donegal approach it.

No matter what happens in the first half they always try to kick for home in the third quarter and yesterday's display at that time was just a carbon copy of their win over Derry.

Once they got in for their first goal, the result was never in doubt and they never let up. Liam Bradley would have made his side well aware of how dangerous Donegal are after the break but perhaps their lack of big-time experience in championship football cost them dearly and they were always chasing the game after that.

There is no doubt that Antrim possess quality footballers but it is now down to whether they buy into the forthcoming qualifiers or not.

Historically, they have never really taken to the qualifiers and I feel that they will have to get a favourable draw if they are to change that this year. Donegal will be delighted that they are into the Ulster final and the last 12 of the All-Ireland and they have done it with the minimum of fuss. They haven't had the same hype around them as in the last couple of years and that will suit them and they now have four weeks to prepare for the Ulster final and if it is Monaghan they face again, they will probably be underdogs.

Derry going out of the qualifiers to Longford on Saturday was a massive shock. Everybody expected them to win at Celtic Park and after their displays in the League, I thought that they had turned the corner. I don't know where they go from here.

Fermanagh battled bravely against Laois and only lost by a point. They will take heart from that display, though they will feel that they would have been in an Ulster semi if they had played like that against Antrim.

Belfast Telegraph


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