Kieran Donaghy, Jim McGuinness and Peter Canavan were impressed with Donegal following Saturday’s win over Armagh.
Declan Bonner’s charges swept the Orchard County aside in a dominant 12-point victory, to set up an Ulster final showdown with Cavan.
But many neutrals around the country are already looking at a potential All-Ireland semi-final meeting between Donegal and Dublin.
“Donegal are the real deal,” said Donaghy.
“They are going for three [Ulster titles] in a row, and it will be hard to see Cavan put up a battle against them. Three Ulsters in a row doesn’t happen too much in that province, so they have to be given great credit, Bonner has to be given great credit, bringing in [Stephen] Rochford, freshening things up. It’s a very young team.
Donegal are the real deal.
Donaghy was hugely impressed with the Ulster champions
“McBrearty looked really fresh when he came on, Eoin McHugh did a great job against Tyrone and was excellent again. They have loads of options; they’ve height, they’ve power, they’ve physique. And they look to know what they are about.
“The keeper, [Shaun] Patton is huge to what they do, whether it’s long, short, wherever it is going. He’s a real game-breaker for them, and he’s a guy who will love Croke Park. He’ll love getting into Croke Park in an All-Ireland semi-final, because his kick-outs, he’ll have even more space to show them off. That’s a huge factor for Donegal.
“They’re in a really good place. But in saying that, it’s still a big step up to Dublin.”
McGuinness: They must focus on Cavan
McGuinness urged his former side not to get carried away, and to fully focus on the task at hand next weekend.
“They are into the Ulster final now, and they are not going to look beyond that game. I know the rest of the country may be matching Dublin and them up,” he noted.
“The focus in the group is very sound. Michael Murphy is central to that. The Ulster final is a huge game, and always will be. So their focus will be on that, 100 per cent.
“That said, they have now shown the country what they are capable of. Patrick [McBrearty] coming back in, the amount of scorers they have, they’re young, they’re fresh, they’re hungry, they’re well-schooled in every aspect of the game. And they’re exciting to watch.
“The bottom line is Donegal have very good footballers. When they get the ball in their hand, they are hard to stop. [Patton] gives them that platform, he puts the ball in their hand consistently. Even in the second-half, against the wind he was able to do it 90 per cent of the time. That is absolutely huge. And the way they pressed the game at the other end of the field means they’re going to get another huge amount of possession to use in the game. And they’re just really good on the ball then.
“These are all young guys. These are all guys that are coming to the fore and improving. Neil McGee is huge in this team, Michael Murphy and Ryan McHugh. All those guys are huge in this team. And they’re retaining their form. I know Neil is getting older now, but he is absolutely central to that.
“But the younger guys are getting better, and that’s the difference in the team. And that’s why they are progressing all the time. They are getting more game-time, they are getting more experience, they’re winning medals, and that’s elevating them all the time. And the other lads are holding their form. That’s making them very formidable.”
Canavan: Dublin lies ahead
“For Donegal there were very few negatives,” said the Tyrone native.
“They were always in control. The only negative maybe would be the injury concern to Stephen McMenamin moving forward, because he is one of their main man-markers.
“But apart from that it was competent. We talk about high standards that Donegal have, we saw the reaction that Michael Murphy did to one of the players that lost the ball at the end, he wasn’t having it.
“So they’re moving in the right direction, and it looks set that they are going to win three-in-a-row, and Dublin lies ahead for them.”
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