”Winning is not a sometime thing… it’s an all time thing. You don’t win once in a while… you don’t do the right thing once in a while… you do them right all the time. Winning is a habit.”
– Vince Lombardi
In modern Gaelic Football only one thing counts. Winning. On Sunday evening the two standout teams of this year’s Championship will attempt to kill off each other’s dreams of glory on the third Sunday of September. They will kick down heaven’s door and dream of being let in. In both camps they believe only one thing – that they will win.
When approaching any game from a betting angle it is important to have a view on how you think the game is going to be played. Forget who you would like to see triumph. If I was asked who would I like to see win, the answer would be simple and without hesitation. Donegal would be the swift response because they deserve to be talked about in the Hills in the same breath as the heroes of ’92. Consecutive Ulster Championships, which unlike any other side were both achieved by playing from the preliminary stages, have acted as the springboard to back-to-back All-Ireland Semi-Final appearances. That alone should give them the right to have a chance to play for All-Ireland glory and if they were playing any side other than Cork then I would be confident that they would get their chance.
A team which Jim McGuinness took over at its lowest ebb are now genuine contenders. A sense of calm has engulfed the county team as the meltdowns from years gone by have been confined to the history books and been replaced with performances of real substance. Many would say the performances of winners.
The opposition Donegal face on Sunday though have been there and done it all. Four League titles and one All-Ireland Championship mark them down as the best team of the last few years. They have taken the scalps of all the big teams until such a time that they are now the team everyone aspires to beat. No longer do they sit in the shadow of their neighbours from Kerry. Driven by their failure to defend their All-Ireland title last year they will once again seek to serve notice that they are the number one team in Gaelic football come All-Ireland Final day.
When seeking an angle into this game you have to have an idea on how it will be played. It’s crucial. Donegal are at their best when they have the lead and dictate how the game will be played. They will look to dictate the tempo but against Cork I can’t see that happening. Cork will look to start quickly. They will want to be the ones who set the tone of the game. Like a boxer may seek to gain control of the centre of the ring and decide the pace of the fight, Cork will want to be the ones setting the pace of the game. They will want to avoid a slow start which hampered them in previous years because Donegal are the only team where a one or two point advantage is as good as a five point advantage. While that advantage would not appear to be that crucial in the first half, the longer Donegal lead, the more the space they limit so well will become crucial to Cork. They will want to avoid this scenario at all costs because even though their forwards are the best in the country, Donegal have become the benchmark on squeezing the life out of games. Cork may be well capable of chasing down the game and assuming control in the latter stages but I doubt very much if it is a position they want to find themselves in with twenty minutes to go. Aidan Walsh, very much this generation’s answer to Darragh O’Se, will look to control the middle sector of the field and provide his forwards with the platform that they will need to get the scores. If they can assume control early in the game and hold the advantage through to half-time then it will force Donegal to come out of their shell somewhat. More importantly it will also allow Cork to play the game on their terms and not on Donegal’s and as the game becomes more stretched in the second half it may well lead to the highest scoring half of the game.
Cork to be leading at Half-Time (4/5 with Boylesports / William Hill)
Cork Half-Time/Full-Time (6/4 with Boylesports / William Hill)
Highest Scoring Half to be the 2nd Half (11/10 with Paddy Power)
Cork -1 (10/11 with William Hill)