Kevin Cassidy

KEVIN CASSIDY: The gloves are off

THE gloves will come off this weekend with all teams expected to go full throttle in search of national titles.

We will start with my own Donegal in Sunday’s Division Two final, part of a Croke Park double header.

I fully expect Jim McGuiness (pictured right) to go all out in search of the victory. Likewise Armagh after an impressive campaign, they will be keen to cap it off with silverware on Sunday.

The fact that these two don’t clash early on in the Ulster Championship allows both teams to go hell for leather without giving their opposition ammunition to use against them in the early stages of the championship.

When both of these teams met a few weeks back in the Athletic Grounds, we already knew that there would be a fair chance that both would meet in the final. With that in mind, what we got that evening was a bit of shadowboxing but I expect sparks to fly on Sunday.

Donegal came in for a little bit of criticism last weekend, having played poorly for 20 or 25 minutes of the match. I’m sure that’s an area that Jim McGuinness and his players will be keen to put right on Sunday.

Sometimes in those games that mean nothing, it’s hard to get the perfect performance so I’m sure Jim will be getting the messages drilled in this week at training.

I feel the message will be how it’s a perfect opportunity to head to headquarters and turn in a performance before they set their sights on Derry.

Armagh have been impressive in all of their games and I think that their style of play suits Croke Park so I think we could be in for a cracker on Sunday.

Much like the Division Two final, we had a fair idea who would be playing in the Division One decider from a few weeks back. So, now we have arguably the two best teams in the country going head-to-head on Sunday evening.

A lot was made of the league clash in Celtic Park earlier this month when Mickey Harte played an understrength Derry side. Like this column explained following week, he did so with this game in mind.

Mickey is a smart enough man to know that you’re never going to beat Dublin two or three times in the one season. It was important for him to pick his battles and now this leaves him with a free shot at the Dubs in the final.

Now is the perfect opportunity for Mickey and his Derry side to go all out and to see how they fare against the in-form team in the country.

Regardless of how the game goes, he will learn an awful lot about his Derry side come Sunday evening. Dublin are getting stronger week on week and although Tyrone were extremely poor last weekend, some of the Dublin movement and forward play was simply awesome.

They have a few guys who are really finding their feet at senior level now.

When you add in the returning Paul Mannion last weekend, it’s going to take an awful lot for anyone to wrestle Sam from their grasp this year.

A lot of people say Derry are the one team which, on paper, can put it up to Dublin but doing that in Croke Park is a totally different ball game.

We have four very good finals to look forward to over the weekend and here is how I see things going.

On Saturday, I think Down will win the Division Three final with Laois taking the Division Four title. For Sunday’s double header, I go for Donegal and the Dubs.

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