- The Game On panel preview the weekend's GAA action
- Donegal's Leo McLoone insists their panel is strong enough to cope with injury problems
- Donegal manager Jim McGuinness on new GAA/Celtic initiative and the upcoming clash with Down.
- Down's Mark Poland says they have learned a lot from the defeat to Donegal last year
By James McMahon
Donegal v Down, Kingspan Breffni Park, 2pm
Down will be looking to banish the memory of last year’s trimming in the Ulster final when facing up to Donegal this afternoon (Live on RTÉ Two and www.RTÉ.ie).
The Mourne men simply couldn’t live with the second-half surge from Jim McGuinness’ side in Clones.
One year on comes the opportunity for atonement.
But are the Red and Black capable of lowering Donegal’s colours and blowing the Championship wide open?
On the evidence of their display against Derry on 2 June, you couldn’t be impressed by the way they took the game by the scruff of the neck early in the second half.
Up to then, their opponents had a measure of control that had them in a winning position.
Add in the fact that key players like Dan Gordon, Conor Garvey and Daniel Hughes are currently sidelined, leaving others to step up to the plate.
Of those, Kevin McKiernan and Mark Poland have made their mark.
Donegal got past the Tyrone challenge pulling up.
Their sights are clearly set on a hat-trick of Ulster crowns. Any successful team wants to dominate their province and Jimmy’s boys are more than capable of showing a ruthlessness in realising that aim.
Mark McHugh returns for today’s encounter and will start at No 12. Neil Gallagher misses out with a knee injury and so Ryan Bradley moves from the forward division to fill the gap at midfield.
Down keep faith with the side that beat Derry, though don’t be surprised that the fit again Aidan Carr or Danny Hughes may feature at some stage.
James McCartan will want his side to fly out of the blocks early on and dictate affairs.
If Donegal get ahead, they are very difficult to peg back.
Neutrals will want to see a close game, but the ability of the All-Ireland champions to wear down their rivals looks a likely scenario though the final outcome may be tighter than was the case in Clones last July.
Donegal: P Durcan; P McGrath, N McGee, E McGee; Declan Walsh, F McGlynn, A Thompson; R Kavanagh, R Bradley; David Walsh, L McLoone, M McHugh; P McBrearty, M Murphy, C McFadden.
Down: B McVeigh; D McCartan, B McArdle, K Quinn, D Rooney, P Turley, R Boyle, K King, K McKernan, A Rogers, M Poland, N Madine, C Laverty, B Coulter, D O’Hare.
Live television coverage of Donegal v Down from 13:30 on Sunday 23 June on RTÉ Two and RTÉ.ie (Ireland only). Live radio coverage of all the day’s action featuring Cork v Clare from 14:00 on RTÉ Radio 1, RTÉ RnaG and RTÉ.ie (Worldwide).
Highlights and analysis of all the weekend’s action on The Sunday Game from 22:00 on Sunday 23 June on RTÉ Two and RTÉ.ie (Ireland only). Expert and fan reaction on Take Your Point from 18:00 on Sunday 23 June on RTÉ Radio 1 and RTÉ.ie (Worldwide)