Donegal v Derry (tonight, Ballybofey, 7.30pm)
SINCE 2009, Donegal have played Derry five times, and on the last three occasions they have prevailed.
The last time the Oak Leafers managed a win against Donegal was in April 2009, when Damian Cassidy was in charge.
They won that game by four points, and eight different players got their name on the score-sheet. Paddy Bradley did not play that day, though current returnees Enda Lynn, Chris McKaigue did.
Donegal went on to beat Derry later that season, and then last year, Jim McGuinness outsmarted Derry on two occasions.
It seems to be the case team that when Donegal lost to a team in one competition they reverse the result the next time they meet. It happened against Derry, Tyrone and Laois last season. Is this merely a coincidence? Perhaps.
What is also interesting is that the National League game against Derry was Donegal’s highest scoring game of the season. They scored more and conceded more in that game at Celtic Park than in any other game of the season. Michael Murphy put on an exhibition that day, hitting 1-7, while Colm McFadden scored 1-3.
Derry had six scorers that day, Cailean O’Boyle managed two goals and a point while Conleith Gilligan scored a free. Just a few months later, those same two players were limited to just a point between them, a Gilligan free, in the Ulster final.
So, with that in mind, and with a potential Ulster Championship clash with Donegal later this year, will Brennan hide his hand against Donegal?
The player that he may want to sideline is McCamley, who was so impressive during Derry’s first game against Cavan. Niall Holly, is another player who could be a regular during the championship campaign, and Brennan may want to keep him under wraps for the match.
However, Brennan isn’t the kind of manager who likes to hide. He certainly doesn’t do so when he is making post-match comments.
Furthermore, the chance to take on Donegal’s defensive system, and drill into his own team how to break said system down will be too tempting.
Do not be surprised if Brennan plays an attacking team that runs at Donegal throughout. The only thing that may spoil his plans, might be some tinkering from McGuinness who may elect to keep his cards close to his chest.
Cavan v UUJ (tonight, Kingspan Breffni Park, 7.30pm)
Jordanstown only picked up one point in the group stages of last season’s Dr McKenna Cup, but this year they have already exceeded that total.
Cavan should therefore beware, particularly when you consider that Jordanstown are under-strength after losing Ronan McNabb, Peter Hughes, Ronan McNamee and Matty Donnelly to Tyrone, and Conor Murray to Antrim.
The difference will be that Cavan will attack with quite a bit more venom than Donegal did. Michael Murphy is not available nor do they have their other star attacker Colm McFadden.
The Breffni men had seven different scorers against Derry in their first game. That included both of their midfielders Gearoid McKiernan and David Givney. That is a powerhouse pairing, which could very well become a long term partnership at the engine room of Cavan football. Terry Hyland used that duo in the 2010 Ulster u-21 Championship which they narrowly lost out to Donegal.
Considering that Jordanstown lost Niall Donnelly to injury in the first game they will find it very difficult to contain McKiernan and Givney. Therefore, this game may be played mostly in UUJ’s own half.
This will provide plenty of opportunities for Ballinagh’s Niall McDermott – who was one of the stars of the Cavan Championship last year – to do damage to Jordanstown’s defence.
For Jordanstown to limit the likes of McDermott they will need huge performances from players such as Carlus McWilliams, who played at corner back against Donegal, Andy McClean at full-back and Tyrone’s Ryan Pickering – who won a MacRory Cup with Dungannon in 2009.
In actual fact, one of Jordanstown’s advantages could be that many of its players are the same age as the Cavan team. Val Andrews has opted to try out a young panel this year, many of whom are only recently out of u-21s. In contrast, Jordanstown has some seasoned county campaigners in Andy McClean and Monaghan’s Neil McAdam.
It all makes for an intriguing battle. CJ McGourty should again be the college’s target man, precisely because his pace and confidence give him an advantage over their opponents.
However, watch out for Chris Clarke at centre half forward. Clarke won a MacRory Cup with St Colman’s Newry in 2010. He was a leader back then and it seems that he has settled into college football nicely.
Jordanstown will put up a good challenge, but Cavan may just prevail because they have more scoring outlets.