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5 reasons why Donegal can win the All-Ireland senior football title

A mix of youth, experience and McGuinness know-how means that Donegal could triumph once again in September.

Image: Presseye/Russell Pritchard/INPHO

1. Jimmy’s winning matches

When Donegal get on a roll, they are a hard animal to stop. Back in their 2012 All-Ireland winning campaign, Jim McGuinness’s side picked up some serious momentum in Ulster with victories over Cavan, Derry, Tyrone and Down and never looked back.

Last month, Donegal claimed the Anglo-Celt after wins over Derry, Antrim and Monaghan with an average winning margin of 6.33 points per game, not too far off their 2012 average of 7.25 points per game in Ulster.

They might have sneaked past Armagh in the quarter-final stage, but make no mistake, McGuinness and his backroom team have been preparing their gameplan for the Dubs all year. Win that game and they would arrive in Croke Park on the third Sunday in September flying high on confidence and looking to repeat a 2012 victory over either of Mayo or Kerry.

Stat: Donegal have had 12 different scorers in the 2014 championship

Jim McGuinness Donegal boss Jim McGuinness will have a big say in where the Sam Maguire ends up this winter Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

2. Key players are fighting fit again this year

It’s no secret that Donegal succumbed to a couple of bad injuries last year which really hampered their chances of retaining the All-Ireland. Karl Lacey, Frank McGlynn, Mark McHugh and Neil Gallagher all spent significant spells on the sideline in 2013 as Donegal struggled to replace them.

Donegal enjoyed an almost completely injury free campaign in 2012 and this time out Lacey, Gallagher and Rory Kavanagh have all recovered from set-backs earlier in the summer.

McGuinness hasn’t the deepest of squads but his core group of 20 players are as good as any in the country and once he can keep them fit, they stand every chance.

Stat: Just 16 players have started for Donegal in their four championship games this summer

Karl Lacey 25/5/2014 Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

3. McGuinness knows how to frustrate the Dubs

The biggest obstacle for Donegal regaining the Sam Maguire is Dublin. They take on the Dubs in a repeat of the 2011 semi-final where they frustrated the life out of Pat Gilroy’s side but ultimately fell just short, losing by 0-8 to 0-6.

McGuinness went where no other manager dared to go before and put 14-men behind the ball to completely stifle the Dublin attack, conceding just two points from play in a war of attrition.

Although the Donegal boss is unlikely to do something quiet as drastic again, it’s entirely possible he has a couple of tricks up his sleeve to stun the Dubs and book their place in the final.

Stat: Donegal have conceded an average of 12.25 points on the route to the All-Ireland semi-final.

Paul Flynn and Neil McGee Source: Cathal Noonan

4. New young talent have added to the panel

While maintaining the nucleus of the 2012 All-Ireland winning side, Donegal have benefited from the addition of three top-class youngsters into their ranks.

The manner in which Ryan McHugh has seamlessly replaced his older brother Mark’s wing-forward role is remarkable, while Odhran Mac Niallias has repayed the faith McGuinness has shown in him by thriving at midfield.

18-year-old Darach O’Connor has given Donegal an option in the forward line unlike any other they have, direct running combined with absolute electric pace.

The infusion of McHugh, Mac Niallais and O’Connor into McGuinness’s system have inspired further confidence in the Donegal camp.

Darach O'Connor Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

5. Experience

Under McGuinness this Donegal team are simply used to winning. Four consecutive Ulster finals have delivered three titles over the past number of years and Donegal are well used to playing big games in Croke Park.

Armagh brought their in-your-face game in the quarter-finals and managed to spark a melee, but Donegal were unfazed.

Donegal used all their experience and kept their calm, before delivering the final blow in the late stages, when other teams might have panicked. That experience will prove pivotal as they look to claim a second All-Ireland in three years.

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About the author:

Kevin O'Brien

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