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Dublin: 12 °C Tuesday 21 May, 2019

5 talking points for Donegal ahead of today's All-Ireland final

Durcan’s kickouts, the impact of the young guns and more big questions for Donegal before they take on Kerry.

1. Achievement of returning after last year

On the back of a 16-point mauling by Mayo in last year’s All-Ireland quarter-final, McGuinness admitted he had second thoughts about returning to the Donegal fold in 2014.

But credit to the Glenties man, he’s inspired his team to a second All-Ireland final in three years in remarkable circumstances. Mark McHugh’s departure from the panel in April caused shock waves around the county but McGuinness made light of his departure and then masterminded a tricky path through Ulster, backing it up with a win for the ages over Dublin.

Cillian O'Connor celebrates scoring his second goal Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

2. Hoping for another McGuinness masterclass

Donegal’s win over Dublin was a tactical masterclass by McGuinness. 7/1 outsiders with some bookies beforehand, Donegal tore up the script by completely stifling Dublin’s free-scoring forwards and ripping them apart with devastating counter-attacks.

McGuinness has proved his genius this year but he faces another huge test against a clued-in Eamon Fitzmaurice. The Kingdom won’t be as naive defensively as Dublin were and are sure to keep at least two of their half-backs at home at all times. If McGuinness can come out on top of the game of chess between himself and Fitzmaurice, Sam Maguire should be returning to the North.

Ryan McHugh scores a goal Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

3. Young guns

Two of the brightest lights in Donegal’s campaign this year have been Odhran MacNiallais and Ryan McHugh. Both youngsters really established themselves as key members of the side this year and find themselves on the verge of winning their first Allstars.

Last year we saw quiet displays by Jack McCaffrey, Ciaran Kilkenny and Paul Mannion (who went off injured early on) as the more established names stood up and delivered the All-Ireland for Dublin. Can McHugh and MacNiallais repeat the heights they hit against Dublin on the biggest stage of all?

Paul Durcan Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

4. Durcan’s kickouts

Paul Durcan’s restarts against the Dubs laid the foundations for Donegal’s win. Dublin pushed right up man-to-man in an attempt to cut out Durcan’s short kick-outs but the quality of his long-range deliveries provided Donegal with plenty of possession around midfield.

Kerry’s midfield duo of Antony Maher and David Moran have been in inspired form over the last few games and Durcan faces a tough task to replicate his form against Dublin.

Neil Gallagher Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

5. One last stand for Donegal?

Sunday could be the curtain call for a number of these Donegal players. It’s possible McGuinness himself won’t stay on for 2015, while this experienced bunch of players might also reassess their futures. With many of the squad the wrong side of 30, a couple of players took persuading to return this year. Can they deliver one last great performance in Croke Park and win a second All-Ireland?

Jim McGuinness and the Kerry connection – singing, Jack O’Shea and studying in Tralee

6 players to watch in the All-Ireland minor final between Kerry and Donegal

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About the author:

Kevin O'Brien

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