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'A defensively solid Donegal can beat Galway' - Devenney

Donegal's attacking wing-back Peadar Mogan will be key to their hopes of beating Galway on Sunday
Peadar Mogan has been in outstanding form for Donegal this season [Inpho]

If Donegal have the defensive structure in place to curb Galway's attacking prowess then can reach a first All-Ireland SFC final in a decade, says former county star Brendan Devenney.

Sunday's All-Ireland semi-final looks extremely close to call, with Galway's memorable comeback against outgoing champions Dublin in the quarter-final leading many to regard them as marginal favourites.

Yet Devenney believes Donegal's ability score from all over the pitch will see them progress, providing they are solid at the back.

"Against Louth last time out it was almost like Donegal knew they could score at will because we have so many players breaking the lines," he said.

"We have to be more defensively solid with the threats Galway have up front, but we can play it any way."

Devenney expects the game to be tight, adding: "Both teams can play different ways to suit the opposition which makes it so hard to call".

Armagh play Kerry on Saturday in the first of the All-Ireland semi-finals.

And following Mickey Harte's departure from Derry after just one season in charge, in the wake of the quarter-final loss to Kerry, Devenney insists there is only one person capable of restoring the fortunes of the 2022 and 2023 Ulster champions.

"Malachy O'Rourke is the only man I can see who can go in and bring this Derry team back to where they were last year, which is right on the door of a potential All-Ireland," he said.

"Whether he wants it or not I don't know but has made an impact everywhere he's gone, for club and county, and he would be the man above all else."

Could Glen manager Malachy O'Rourke (left) and Conor Glass link up again with Derry?
Malachy O'Rourke (left) managed Derry and Ulster club champions Glen to the All-Ireland title in January 2024 [Inpho]

Donegal 'primed and ready'

Devenney says both Donegal and Galway, who lost to Kerry in the 2022 All-Ireland SFC final, will view Sunday's game as a huge opportunity in their quest for the Sam Maguire.

"With the Dubs out of the picture and Kerry not playing well, how often do chances like this come around?

"Galway are going in as favourites because of 2022 and because they beat Dublin but there is nothing between the teams."

Devenney says Donegal manager Jim McGuinness "doesn't do complacency" and will be respectful of Galway dangermen like Cillian McDaid, Shane Walsh and if fit, Damien Comer.

And he's hopeful Jason McGee will be fit enough to return to the Donegal midfield to help the team match up against a physically imposing Galway side.

"Galway have such height around the middle so McGee would be an asset there and even if Conor O'Donnell makes way, he has shown a real attacking threat and we will need players coming off the bench.

"Galway had them last time against Dublin, and Donegal will need them this time.

"Both teams have so much ability going forward and how each team shuts down the other’s forward threats will be key."

Galway duo Paul Conroy and Cillian McDaid celebrate after beating Dublin
Paul Conroy and Cillian McDaid played a huge role in Galway's stunning All-Ireland quarter-final over 2023 champions Dublin [Inpho]

Galway have not won the All-Ireland since 2001, when current manager Padraic Joyce was the team's star full-forward.

The Tribesmen were managed to the 1998 and 2001 All-Ireland titles by John O'Mahony, who passed away on Saturday.

The second of Donegal's two All-Ireland titles was under McGuinness in 2012.

"It's a surprise that we haven’t even been in a semi-final since Jim left (in 2014) because we have always been competitive in Ulster," said Devenney.

"Everyone was expectant, almost, when Jim came back and to come through such a difficult route in Ulster and get here this far, well it's great for Donegal people all over the world to be tuned in to this brilliant season we’re having."

Both All-Ireland SFC semi-finals are live on BBC2 Northern Ireland, Armagh v Kerry on Saturday (17:30) and Donegal v Kerry on Sunday (16:00).