By Frank Craig
Donegal manager Jim McGuinness says that his side is in good stead as they look forward to tangling with Armagh in Croke Park this weekend.
McGuinness is in a buoyant mood and with no major injury concerns to report, Donegal are in a position to put their best foot forward on Saturday afternoon.
“It’s where you want to be - the business end of the championship,” he said. “It’s the last eight and we’re looking forward to the game. It’s been very positive since the Ulster final and there seems to be a good feeling around the county.”
“We go into Croke Park as Ulster Champions and that’s important.”
McGuinness senses a change in Armagh and he sees the familiar steel that the Orchard County used to carry into battle in the not too distant past.
“We know the task ahead of us. It’s going to be a very difficult task. We were up on Saturday night and seen Armagh kick 18 points in very difficult conditions. We know what is in front of us.
“From our own point of view, I feel things are moving in the right direction. The boys refocused quickly after the Ulster Final and training has gone to plan. We’ve no major injury concerns so that is all positive.
“We had the chance to look at Armagh and we’ve played them already this season. We’re both very familiar with each other at this stage. You have to say the management team of Paul Grimley and Kieran McGeeney have really turned it around there.
“They are very good in the tackle, break well, and are very competitive. They’re bringing a lot to the table so it’s going to be a battle. I’m sure there are a lot of things that Armagh are happy with. But at this stage of the competition, you don’t expect anything else.
“It’s great to be there and we’re looking forward to it.”
History casts a long shadow in Armagh and this current group of players have the going tough in recent seasons. However, this year’s championship feats have raised eyebrows after a disappointing National Football League campaign that saw them finish second from bottom in Division 2.
“They’ve impressed, definitely,” added McGuinness. “They’ve gained a lot of experience along the way. They’ve had some brilliant performances. They had a hard lesson the second day out against Monaghan but they’ve taken that on board and have not looked back.
“That is the sign of a good team. The easiest thing to do after being knocked out of championship football is to throw in the towel. We’ve seen that many, many times. It was obvious on Saturday night that they are very together as a group.
“They’re united, they’ve got momentum, and that’s the attributes you want to take into any match. We know what is in front of us but we need to focus on ourselves.”
Donegal’s lead-up to the last eight this term is in stark contrast to last season when, after surrendering their provincial crown to Monaghan, a patched up Tir Chonaill outfit were obliterated by Mayo.
The side spent the weekend at a training camp in Mullingar and the manager says that the picture is much healthier this time out compared to 2013’s venture into the quarter-finals.
“It’s the quarter-final, it’s Croke Park, and it’s a special occasion. Things went great at the weekend and everyone is in good form. We had them away, they trained Saturday and the boys did really well.
“We went to the matches, came back and trained on the Sunday as well. It was really good. Fingers crossed now things carry on like that into the weekend. I’ll take this any day compared to the situation we were in last year.
“They’ve trained really well, they’re focused and I feel there is a great hunger in the squad. They got back down to business straight after the Ulster final and they want to push on.
“That was a good indication that they wanted to do well in the All-Ireland series.”
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