Ulster Football Final preview – Monaghan to prevail

Lonesharkoy previews the Ulster Football final between Monaghan and Donegal and believes the the Farney men can repeat their 2013 success against the odds.

Donegal vs Monaghan, Ulster Senior Football Final

Forget what happened in Killarney two weeks ago – all we learned there is that Cork have football in them (not that this was ever in doubt), and that Kerry were still a bit short of where they’ll aim to be in August. In terms of the race for the Sam Maguire Cup, this clash in Clones is the first contest that will have a huge bearing on which county ends up with the broadest smiles in September.

Each province provided one front runner for the big prize when the season began, while Cork’s strong performance in the drawn Munster final has guaranteed their inclusion in that select group. However by any realistic assessment of the situation, Monaghan are entitled to be considered as genuine All Ireland aspirants also, even if they possibly have a bit more work to do than the other five.

By now, Malachy O’Rourke’s side have grown used to keeping elite company throughout the year. They held their own in division one this year, while their run to the Ulster final was no more or less impressive than that of Donegal – strong in places, with some sub-par spells.

Donegal’s demolition job against Armagh led some analysts to believe that the second coming of the Tír Chonaill men was about to be visited upon the nation, but their performances against Tyrone and Derry would suggest that they are still roughly at the same level that they occupied over the past couple of seasons – capable and resilient, but unspectacular. What’s more, Monaghan have proven in that time that they know how to compete with Donegal. A succession of Ulster and league clashes has seen these sides build up a rivalry that is at least as keenly contested as any you’ll find among counties that don’t share a border, going back several years – perhaps right up to Kerry and Tyrone a decade ago.

Admittedly, the three point margin in last year’s final was deceptive – Donegal were by far the better team on the day and if Frank McGlynn held on to that crucial ball, then Chris McGuinness wouldn’t have scored his goal and Donegal would have eased over the line. However another way of looking at that fixture would be to say that Monaghan were within three points on an afternoon when Conor McManus was recovering from the flu, Kieran Hughes was taking painkiller injections and both Neil McAdam and Eoin Lennon were absent. This year Drew Wylie is expected to miss out – though rumours abound of his potential to take part – while otherwise, the Farney men are expected to be fit and healthy.

On the flip side, Paddy McBrearty has missed some time in training but he too is expected to start. There will be no excuses for either team this Sunday.

As teams and players get to know each other better, defenders gain more and more of an advantage. This will be very tight, very close, and it’s surprising to see Skybet going out of their way to attract Monaghan money with odds of 11/4.

At 13/5 they’d still be top of the shop, while 5/2 would make them joint best. Don’t expect this to last, and as the weekend draws near, bear in mind that any total points line in the thirties is too high – though the bookies may yet get that one right.

Recommendation: 

1 point win Monaghan to beat Donegal at 11/4 with Skybet

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