Footballers will have to produce a big performance to defeat Donegal

This Saturday in Croke Park (6pm ) the Galway footballers will have to produce one of their best performances in a few seasons to beat the 2012 All-Ireland champions and 2014 All-Ireland finalists Donegal, in their round four qualifier clash. 

The winners on Saturday evening will face either Monaghan or Mayo in the All-Ireland quarter-finals on Sunday week. Galway are not without hope in this clash, as they are on the back of two momentum building victories over Armagh and Derry in the qualifiers.

In fact, there are plenty of people in the county and beyond who think that Kevin Walsh's team can really rattle into the defeated Ulster finalists. The big unanswered question at this juncture is whether this Donegal team is genuinely starting to tire after three or four very tough seasons under Jim McGuinness and now Rory Gallagher.

If they are losing the desire for the battle and are missing a bit of the work-rate in certain positions that has made them a really tough nut to crack since they won the Ulster title in 2011, then Galway will have a real opportunity. In their narrow defeat to Monaghan in the Ulster final, there were signs that some of their players were looking a bit weary.

Especially in the first half, when Monaghan were able to get into scoring positions and turn over Donegal players, which is very unusual based on what we have observed over the past few years. Despite the big loss of Karl Lacey for Saturday with a knee injury, the Ulster men are still 2/1 on with the bookies, with Galway available at 9/4 and better.

However, one result and display that will give Kevin Walsh and his panel strong grounds for optimism is the 4-17 to 1-10 pasting that Mayo gave Donegal in the All-Ireland quarter-final in 2013 at Croke Park. Most people were predicting a win for Donegal that day, however, the Mayo lads under James Horan came out and ran them ragged.

Cillian O' Connor hit 3-4 that day and 13 different Mayo players scored. It proved that Donegal can be beaten, and well beaten, especially if they go behind early and have to come out and play and then leave gaps that can be exploited at the back. Galway are due to announce their team later in the week, however, there are unlikely to be many, if any, changes from the side that beat Derry two weeks ago.

Thankfully, the management team have a full panel to pick from and there are no injury worries. The big debate around the county is whether a fit again Shane Walsh should be started, considering he has so little game time under his belt. There is probably one forward position up for grabs and that is likely to be filled by Peadar Óg Ó Griofa, Patrick Sweeney, or perhaps Walsh.

For Galway to win and set up what would then probably be a clash with Monaghan, assuming Tyrone beat Sligo, they will need big displays all over the pitch and management will have to bring their A game too. Down the middle Galway will need big performances from Finian Hanley, Gary O' Donnell, Flynn and Ó Curraoin at midfield, and Conroy and Damien Comer in the central attacking positions.

Galway will need to be very patient in possession in order to break down the Donegal rearguard that is highly experienced with the likes of the two McGees, Frank McGlynn, and All-Star goalkeeper Paul Durcan.

Galway are definitely outsiders in most people's eyes for very understandable reasons, based on both team's respective form and championship successes over the past few years. However, all good things come to an end, and there was definite signs of tiredness in some of the Donegal players in the Ulster final.

Hopefully the Galway players will have the mental resilience and patience to wear down Donegal, constantly probing for openings, and then be ruthless and efficient in front of goal when their chances come. If a fully fired up and fully oiled Donegal turn up on Saturday, they will be very difficult to beat.

That said, we will be travelling up early Saturday afternoon optimistic about our prospects, and hoping for a hat-trick of wins over Ulster opposition and a place in the last eight.


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