AFTER all of the shadowboxing over the last number of weeks, the real action gets underway here in Donegal this weekend as knockout championship rolls into town.
I feel strongly that a new structure must be looked at going forward, but it is what it is at this stage, so hopefully we will get some meaningful games over the next three or four weeks.
On paper there shouldn’t be any issues for most of the top four teams if we go on form over the last four or five years, but hopefully for the excitement of the competition there will be an upset or two along the way.
When looking at current form and how the teams have been shaping up for the last 18 months, the toughest game to call is between my own club Gaoth Dobhair and Aodh Ruadh Ballyshannon who are coming once again at this level.
Ballyshannon were once powerhouses at senior level here in Donegal and over the last number of years they have put in massive work at underage levels and they’re beginning to show signs that there may be a force in the future.
They have a very fit athletic young team who play a very defensive brand of football, but they’re lightning quick on the counter attack and can hurt teams if given the opportunity to do so.
Naturally, I believe that our lads should have enough to overcome the challenge, but nonetheless it will be a stern test and perhaps it’s something that our lads need at this time of the season.
The other close contest in the quarter-final should come between Glenties and Glenswilly, who face off in Letterkenny with the game live on TG4 on Sunday.
These teams played out an entertaining draw in the group stages, but as we know knockout is a completely different animal and I expect to see that from Glenties this weekend as they to the pitch.
For me, Glenties are a team that are heading in the direction of transitional change and the big question for them is whether or not they have young players good enough to step up and replace those players who have served the club so well over the last number of years, so we should find that out in the next week or two.
Glenswilly are a team that have been in that transitional change for a year two now and perhaps they lack two or three players that would enable them to compete again at this level.
Any team with Michael Murphy in it has a chance and if they station him at full forward and continue to launch ball into the square then you just never know what could happen but I expect Glenties to win.
The other two games are a little easier to call with Kilcar taking on local rivals Killybegs and in truth they should have way too much firepower for their neighbours.
Kilcar, along with St Eunan’s, are probably the in-form team this year having won the league earlier in the season so they will be eager to build on momentum as we head into the business end of the season.
The last game of the quarter-finals sees champions St Eunan’s take on St Michaels and as mentioned earlier St Eunan’s are definitely the inform team this season and are strong favourites to retain the crown so it will be difficult to see how this young St Michael’s team can cause them any problems.
I haven’t seen much of St Eunan’s up close this season, but going by reports they have built on last year’s success and they look like a formidable team and so I am interested to see how they do this weekend.
Looking at the four games I think after this weekend the top four will still be standing and then we’re in for some mouth-watering classes so this weekend I’ll go for victories for Gaoth Dobhair, St Eunan’s, Glenties and Kilcar.