BRIAN MCENIFF COLUMN: Donegal are good enough to go to Down and win but they must be careful

BRIAN MCENIFF COLUMN:   Donegal are good enough to go to Down and win but they must be careful

We now know who we will be playing in the Ulster championship, so we have the roadmap of what will be a busy schedule for Declan Bonner and Donegal.
It is a tough draw, going to Newry to play Down. I remember very well the last time we played them there in the championship. It is hard to believe that it is 50 years ago in 1971.
I remember playing well that day. I was playing on a fella called Mickey Cunningham. He was the sort of player that I liked to play on.
My memory of the game is that we played well and were in the game for a long time. I can recall Sean O'Neill scoring a goal. He was still sharp then and he was sharp three years later when we met them in the Ulster final.
I remember we had a very poor league going into that game. As far as I can recall Ambrose Given was team manager and Austin Coughlin, Jim 'Natch' Gallagher and Gerry McCafferty of Convoy were selectors.
We played well, better than we had done anytime that year. But Down would have been many steps ahead of us then.
However, the fact that we did so well was a factor when we defeated them the following year in Ballybofey in the opening game in our Ulster winning year of 1972. And that came after another poor league campaign in 1971/'72 with the low point being losing to Leitrim.
But getting back to this year's draw, it is a tough assignment. If you go back to the first half versus Cavan in the semi-final last year in the Athletic Grounds, Down beat them up and down the field in the first half. They had a big lad in the middle of the field Caolan Mooney, who was very good
Down were moving terribly well in that first half but in the second half they fell away. But then again Cavan were good in the second half of all their games.
On the plus side we have had it over Down over the last 10 years. They defeated us in Ballybofey in 2010 but since then we have been too good for them.
But Paddy Tally is a good coach. He will have a defensive structure, and even though Down are a team that like to play attacking football, Tally's way will be to play defensively.
It's a tough away draw in Newry. I would still call it the Marshes. I think we have enough experience to take us through. But then again experience alone will not be enough.
We must not get ahead of ourselves. We have to take it one game at a time. There is a nice carrot there as we will have Derry at home in the quarter-final, which would be a big plus. But we should not look beyond Down.
With the championship being straight knock-out, we have the panel to take it on. Four games in six weeks to take an Ulster title is tough. But if we can get everyone fit and ready, we can do it. We have a couple of Gaoth Dobhair defenders, Gillespie and McFadden Ferry back, and also we missed Stephen McMenamin in last year's Ulster final.
But we must remember that in Ulster, on any given day, any team can win
With the league beginning in the middle of May, it is going to be tough - playing against Ulster teams right through.
But we have the roadmap and hopefully we might even get in to see a few games before the championship concludes.

Brian McEniff was in conversation with Peter Campbell

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