06 Jul 2022

ULSTER SFC: The pundits have their say ahead of Derry v Donegal

Who will nail their predictions this time round?

ULSTER SFC: The pundits have their say ahead of Derry v Donegal

We have a look at what the experts think about Sunday's game...

Conleith Gilligan (Kilcoo Manager)

I think kick-outs are going to be massive in this clash. Donegal will press heavy on the Derry kick out and with five big mid-fielders playing in different positions, the likes of Langan, Thompson, McFadden, McGee and Murphy coming out they will definitely press hard and if Derry can get a bit of joy from their kick-outs I think they'll have enough to win the game.

Prediction: DERRY

Cahair O'Kane (Irish News journalist)

I think Donegal will look back at a lot of the big games they've played against Tyrone, particularly under Mickey Harte in recent years as a template. They've done well in those games.

Declan Bonner had a good record against Mickey Harte in the last years but when Tyrone found a mid-field in Conn Kilpatrick and Brian Kennedy the balance swung. Derry have to get some grip on mid-field.

Whether that means Emmett Bradley starting, to try and bring a bit more physicality in the air.

Their third quarter against Monaghan will worry them. They will be concerned by how penned in they became and how they couldn't find a way out.

They couldn't win any of their long kickouts and I think they'll double down and work on that. Try to find ways out. They will have also learned a lot from Ballybofey last year.

Derry kept a sweeper back all the time and then tried to press Sean Patten's kick out as well, leaving Donegal with a spare man out round the midfield and half forward line and Patten kept finding him. It undermined Derry's press.

If they can get those things right. They'll possibly shut down Donegal's attack. I think Murphy will play nowhere near the edge of the square and McKinless may play off him and try and run him and Derry will face something different in that they may face a Donegal side that will mirror them a wee bit and drop off and not leave them the big spaces that Tyrone and Monaghan gave them.

I think Derry will force Donegal to miss enough chances, to give themselves a real shot in this game. I think Derry will find a way to win.

Prediction: DERRY

Michael McMullan (Gaelic Life journalist)

WHEN asked on Brendan Devenney’s podcast, at the start of the league, if Donegal could lift the Anglo Celt Cup, I said no because Derry were going to win it.

While I perhaps said it in jest, at that point I was convinced Derry would beat Tyrone and after backing it up with a win over Monaghan, they have one hand on the cup.

Rory Gallagher will need a plan for both Lynch and Patton’s kick-outs, with Donegal able to, as the Goats Don’t Shave song says, “build a wall” across the pitch with their plethora of midfielders.

Donegal’s bench was the winning of last year’s Championship encounter.The input of Murphy, Mac Niallais and Paul Brennan all made a difference.

Having Niall Loughlin declared fit is a boost for the Derry camp. I predict a game of chess and crossing my fingers for some Derry silver.

Prediction : DERRY

Mary Anne McNulty (Donegal journalist)

While Rory Gallagher has been rightly hailed for his tactical acumen, Donegal will know roughly what to expect and are unlikely to be caught out in the same way as Tyrone.

Declan Bonner's side will defend robustly, and in numbers, to push back the Derry attack, countering at speed whenever they get a chance.

They will be relying on big performances from marquee players like Michael Murphy, Paddy McBrearty and Ryan McHugh, and will feel confident that the experience throughout the Donegal squad can trump Derry's youthful exuberance and intensity.

With so much at stake for both sides, the potential for volatility is high. In a game of fine margins, a red card handed out for a rash tackle could decide things; discipline will be a crucial factor.

Prediction: DONEGAL

Orlagh Mullan (Freelance journalist)

On Sunday, more will be added to the long history book of Derry against Donegal. The Oakleaf’s last Ulster final appearance in 2011 was against the Tír Chonaill men. Their last Anglo-Celt was in 1998 against… you guessed it.

But this is a new, fresh and exciting squad. What they do remember clearly is Ballybofey last year. Revenge is a dish best served in Clones.

The key men are obvious, both teams go in with confidence, and it’s all set for a cracker. In my last prediction I played it safe and went for Tyrone, this time I am going with the head and the heart – Up Derry!

Prediction: DERRY

Bernie Mullan (Freelance Journalist)

Twelve months on from that unlucky defeat at Ballybofey I feel that Derry have improved more than Donegal. They have worked successfully on the perfect blend between defence and attack.

Confidence is high and they have come through a tougher route than Donegal. When you have the best defence in the game you can shut out the key men in the opposing attack. Derry have enough in attack to win the Anglo Celt.

Prediction: DERRY

Steven Doherty (Freelance journalist)

My abiding memory of the 2011 final is being stood on the Hill, surrounded by a bus load of drunken Donegal gulpins. They sang "What's that coming over the hill? It's Michael Murphy! It's Michael Murphy!" all day long, ad nauseum.

That horrible day has haunted us ever since, but we lance that boil this weekend.  Derry have all the momentum, Donegal have the Ulster Championship pedigree.  But hunger wins this game on Sunday.  Derry wins this game. 

Prediction: DERRY

Alan Foley (Donegal Democrat journalist)

It's no surprise that Derry have continued their forward trajectory since Rory Gallagher took over, but they've accelerated that with two excellent wins over Tyrone and Monaghan.

It's been noted that Derry have always had the footballers but now they've the collective going in the right direction and it's an exciting time for them. 

They play within a system but it allows them, when the time is right, to express themselves. Last year showed their template for Donegal is very close to working.

Michael Murphy was only a second half substitute that day and his introduction did free up other Donegal forwards on the day. 

Both Derry and Donegal have seriously talented players and, maybe this is a notion to me - if Donegal play to their potential then they're as good a side as there is in the province. 

The two, somewhat fortunate, goals against Cavan show the possibilities of mixing it up and going long on occasion.

Derry have players with experience of big games at club football, while Donegal have won 33 Ulster SFC matches since 2011, which is an impressive total and maybe the fact it's their 10th final in 12 years will stand to them. Maybe!

Both sides have an opportunity to make a footprint in the All-Ireland series no matter what the outcome.

Prediction: DONEGAL

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