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GAA legends Steven McDonell, Seamus McEnaney and Brendan Devenney join McLean’s tipster Adrian Logan for an expert panel discussion looking forward to the All Ireland semi final

Semi final is case of whether Cork has guile to breakdown Donegal – Devenney

As Donegal and Cork get set to face each other in this weekend’s All Ireland semi final, three senior GAA figures give their views at an event hosted by McLean’s bookmakers, the largest independent bookmakers in Northern Ireland.

Donegal’s record points scorer and BBC pundit Brendan Devenney was joined by Armagh’s All Ireland Winner and All Star Steven McDonnell and former Meath and Monaghan Manager Seamus McEnaney at an event hosted by McLean’s tipster and BBC pundit Adrian Logan.

Who do you think will win the semi final, Cork or Donegal?

Brendan: I think Cork will go into the game as slight favourites, and rightly so, but Donegal are very close behind them.  Cork has the experience, having won the All Ireland two years ago and having potentially suffered from the ‘year off’ syndrome last year they’ve bounced back this year.  Cork has possibly the best squad in Ireland but in saying that the game is still there to be won and it’s almost a 50/50 call.

The most interesting aspect of the game will be whether Cork has the guile to break down Donegal.  They apply pressure all the time and are in your face defensively; Cork will need patience as once Donegal get set within the 45 they are difficult to crack.  Training will be key to this and I’d imagine the coaches will be preparing Cork for such a situation.

Seamus: It’s going to be a very tight game.  As Brendan mentioned Donegal has a system which is very hard to get through but Cork has some big men, I think 13 of their 15 are over 6 feet tall, so they may be able to shade the physical battle.  It may take a replay to settle this tie and while my heart says Donegal, my head says Cork.

Steven: It’s Cork for me; overall they are the best equipped team to win the All Ireland.  Donegal may get some joy from the half forward line, dragging a possibly ageing Cork line about the pitch but they won’t have come up against forwards of the quality of Cork’s.  They are so clinical, take even half chances and also have the ability to mix the game up if needs be.  I think this forward line will fire Cork to the final.

Are there any players you expect to stand out?

Brendan: For Donegal the important thing is the system they play rather than any individual players.  If you get a team of fit players buying into a system like the Donegal team has then it can produce excellent results.  In saying that there have been some massive performances right throughout the team but I don’t think I could pick out anyone individual, they’ve all been great, from back to front.

Seamus: Cork has a very tall forward line in Colm O’Neill, Ciaran Sheehan and Daniel Goulding who will prove difficult to mark.  They also have serious pace in Paul Kerrigan, Aidan Walsh and Paddy Kelly.  Where I think Donegal may have some joy however is if they drop the full backs in as Cork may not be good enough on the ball to play through them.

Steven: The key player for Donegal will be Mark McHugh; it will be interesting to see whether Cork allows him the freedom he’s had in previous games.  For Cork it’s Colm O’Neill; he missed all last year through injury but is proving to be a lethal finisher this season and if Cork get enough ball to him he will punish Donegal.

Finally where do you see the game being won or lost?

Steven: I think the key for Cork will be to pounce early and set scoring targets during the game.  They can’t allow Donegal to get into the lead because they’re so well organised and it will become more and more difficult to break them down.

Brendan: Yeah that’s a fair point.  If Donegal gets into the lead, with their system it also becomes psychological for the other side and you can see even top players missing chances.  I think the key will be whoever has the lead going into the final ten minutes, if Cork is up they will need to keep possession and be patient because Donegal can strike quickly on the break, whereas if Donegal are up they may be more suited to seeing the game out.

Seamus: I think Cork has the physical edge so that might just see them through, but as I said, possibly after a replay.

The All Ireland semi final between Cork and Donegal takes place on Sunday 26th August at Croke Park.