Tyrone vs Donegal will go down to the wire, says Peter Canavan

Sky Sports GAA analyst Peter Canavan looks ahead to the weekend’s Gaelic football action, including the Ulster semi-final between Donegal and Tyrone.

We can’t read a huge amount into Tyrone’s two outings thus far, after wins over Derry and Antrim.

They were put to the pin of their collar by the Oakleafers and responded the way Mickey Harte would have wanted.

Likewise, Donegal answered all the questions posed in their victory over Fermanagh. What impressed me most about Declan Bonner’s outfit in Enniskillen was their patience. There were so many young lads in the side, and they didn’t panic when faced with the mass blanket defence.

They didn’t panic. They worked the ball well. It revealed the amount of players that can score from distance in this Donegal outfit. They probably shade Tyrone from that regard, they have more players capable of scoring from long-range.

When the sides met in the Super 8s last year, it looked on the scoreboard that Tyrone won with something to spare in Ballybofey. But that wasn’t the case. It was only in the last 10 minutes that the Red Hands really surged ahead. Up to that point, Donegal were very happy.

There was an obvious hurt in Tír Chonaill after that game. They were playing at home, the match was there for them, and Tyrone dominated the crucial sector of the game in the final 10 minutes.

That would have stayed with Donegal, it will remain very much in their minds. They’ll be an easy team to motivate.

What can we expect on Saturday? It will be ultra-competitive and will go to the wire. Don’t be surprised if we need extra-time again for this one.

We’ve seen crucial red cards in games already this year. Discipline will be key, especially when you see the quality of the free-takers that both Donegal and Tyrone possess. Whilst both teams will be highly motivated, it could be the team that shows the most discipline could come out on top.

It’s going to be tactical, it’s going to be very aggressive, there’ll be a great atmosphere in Kingspan Breffni.

Kingspan Breffni is not the venue choice of many for this match. Donegal and indeed Tyrone supporters will be unhappy with the decision. But that won’t take away from the occasion – I’d still expect 20,000 there. When the Cavan venue is full to the brim, there’s a special atmosphere. With both semi-finals taking place, the Ulster Council are set for a bumper weekend.

Will the Farney County get the job done?

Perhaps the standout tie of the weekend’s qualifiers is the meeting of Monaghan and Fermanagh in Clones.

It’s a help to Monaghan playing at home, there’s no doubt about that. Last year they were shocked by the Erne County in Omagh.

For the first round of the qualifiers, so much depends on the attitude of the Monaghan players, and how they respond to their championship defeat.

I say it every year, the leaders in the team have to be dominant in how they emerge when it comes to picking a team up from an Ulster Championship defeat, especially one they weren’t expecting.

Malachy O’Rourke will be looking for a response. The fact that they’ve had three weeks to regroup will be a help.

The bottom line is that their attitude needs to change from the Cavan game where they went out very flat and had no spark.

They know what way Fermanagh will set up. Rory Gallagher’s charges will relish the opportunity to take out one of the big guns, but I would expect that Monaghan’s key players will give an answer that will please Malachy O’Rourke.

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