If we are to believe all we hear about Donegal's ultra defensive set up, it looks like it will be a case of beauty and the beast when they meet Dublin in the second of this year's All-Ireland semfinals at Croke Park on Sunday next. Dublin looked very good in their quarterfinal win over Tyrone when I was really impressed with their foot passing on a wet evening not conducive for good football. Meanwhile Donegal has not made any friends en route to their first semifinal since 2003. After their win over Antrim in the preliminary round of the Ulster Championship back in May, Antrim manager Liam Bradley described Donegal's style of play as "puke football." It was a phrase first used by former Kerry star Pat Spillane on television to describe Tyrone's style of play, a style which certainly didn't do Mickey Harte's team any harm in recent years. Such is the intensity of Ulster football that prior to Donegal this year, only one other county has won the Ulster championship after playing in the preliminary round; that was Armagh in 2005. The evening they beat Tyrone everything seemed to go according to plan for Dublin and full forward Diarmuid Connolly was able to kick points at ease with both feet. The general impression is that the Dublin forwards won't get the same freedom against Donegal as they did against an ageing Tyrone side. A reporter who recently visited the Donegal camp told me that this current crop of players would "walk on hot coals" for manager Jim McGuinness. It promises to be a fascinating game and I give a hesitant vote to the Dubs to get to their first final since 1995. After all teams who play open attacking football should always win, shouldn't they? We haven't had a full house at Croke Park this summer, but the stadium should be nearly full on Sunday as lukewarm Dublin supporters are now expected to turn out to support their county.
SHERIFF'S HOME IS TOO OPEN
The FAI Cup is often all about the minnows but North Dublin club Sheriff YC is the only non-League club still left in this year's competition. Sheriff play their home games at Fairview Park and were drawn at home to Shelbourne, but of course Fairview Park is a public park and they would not be allowed to play a Cup game there. So the game goes ahead on Friday night at Tolka Park, which is is within walking distance of Fairview. And nothing like a local derby for a cracking cup tie -- the big derby this weekend is in County Louth where Drogheda meet neighbors Dundalk. (See opposite page 29 for more FAI Cup news.)
DALY MAY STAY WITH DUBLIN
Dublin hurling manager Anthony Daly has hinted that he is willing to stay with the tea, for another year. The Clare native has done very well with the Dubs and the County Board would have been very anxious that he would stay on after the great performance against Tipperary in the All-Ireland semifinal earlier this month.
In Westmeath football Pat Flanagan has been retained for another 12 months and Mickey Moran will be back with Leitrim for a fourth consecutive year in 2012.
Former Dublin footballer Paddy Andrews has switched codes and has joined Monaghan United, who play in the Airtricity League of Ireland first division.
OFFALY REF FOR HURLING FINAL
Offaly's Brian Gavin has been appointed to referee the All-Ireland senior hurling final between Tipperary and Kilkenny on Sept. 4. Officially he will be first Offaly referee since Pat Horan in 1996 to take charge of a final, but Diarmuid Kirwan, who refereed the 2009 final, was born in Offaly, but now lives in Cork. Tipperary's Johnny Ryan will take charge of the minor hurling final between Dublin and Galway.
LEINSTER GAA MULL NEW GROUND
The Leinster GAA Council is to carry out a feasibility study into building a 25,000 capacity stadium on a green field side in West Dublin, somewhere out the M50 motorway. With grounds in Navan and Newbridge badly in need of upgrade work, the provincial body believes investing in a new stadium, which could act as a home ground for Dublin, Kildare, Meath, Louth and possibly Westmeath and Wicklow, may be a better option in the long run. Leinster Council Chairman
Martin Skelly said: ''There are a number of grounds that would not be up to scratch under health and safety requirements and cannot meet the needs of paying customers in a modern-day context.'' In the current economic climate this is obviously something for the future and one thing is certain if the Leinster Council buy a site now it would probably be very cheap. A few years back many county boards were selling their grounds in the middle of towns for big money and planning to move to green field sites out of town.
But the collapse of the building industry put an end to all of that. Recently Pairc Tailteann in Navan had its capacity reduced by half to 10,000 as Health and Safety officials deemed it was not safe to stand on the grassy banks at both end of the ground.
The Meath County Board don't have the money to upgrade Pairc Tailteann as they are committed to their Centre of Excellence at Dunganny. Abbotstown, where former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern had planned to build the so-called 'Bertie Bowl' could be a venue for the proposed Leinster venue. The site has not been fully developed and the FAI is the only sports body to move their offices to Abbotstown where there are no playing facilities.