Ulster SFC: Tyrone are one of the few sides capable of troubling Dublin's five-in-a-row bid

Antrim's Patrick Gallagher with Mattie Donnelly of Tyrone
Tyrone have scored a combined 3-42 to book an Ulster semi-final match against Donegal

So what is the Ulster progress report after the weekend's action?

Granted Tyrone have beaten two Division Four teams (OK, Derry have been promoted to Division Three) but I still feel the Red Hands are slightly ahead of Donegal at this stage.

I've been impressed by Tyrone. They took off three of their best players - Mattie Donnelly, Cathal McShane and Peter Harte - at the start of the second half on Saturday and still won going away.

Undoubtedly, it will be a challenge having to up the intensity against Donegal but Tyrone are in a really good position to go and win that game. There's no question they are going to be favourites.

And if you push me into looking further down the tracks, the weekend's results - in particular an over-hyped Mayo's defeat by Roscommon - only further convinces me that Tyrone and Kerry are going to be the only teams capable of troubling Dublin's five-in-a-row ambitions.

A 30-metre dash through the Tyrone defence was unbelievable

That said, Mickey Harte will be concerned by the problems that the direct running of Patrick McBride and the very impressive Matthew Fitzpatrick caused the Red Hand defence.

True... Tyrone racked up 2-23, and you have to rob Peter to pay Paul to register totals like that, so you do have to make certain allowances.

But the sight of McBride being able to run through for 30 metres unopposed before being eventually hauled down by Ben McDonnell in the incident that led to the Tyrone player's black card was pretty unbelievable. And that was in the first half when the game hadn't quite been put to bed.

Tyrone manager Mickey Harte
Mickey Harte will be concerned by some of the defending his side showed against Antrim

The Saffrons played as well as could have been expected against the Tyrone machine but really and truly, you have to fear for Antrim for the rest of the summer. I can't see them winning a game against any of the other teams in the draw.

A grimly compelling contest

And then there was the Brewster Park contest, described as "grimly compelling" by my good friend Mr Sidebottom.

I know there were a few grumblings when the scoreline read 0-2 to 0-0 for Fermanagh after 18 minutes but I don't think Rory Gallagher had any real option but to set his team up to frustrate Donegal.

People say Fermanagh should try and 'go for it' a bit sooner in games but when Gallagher's side are playing against teams of higher quality and greater squad depth, what option do they have but to try and stay in touch and somehow squeeze out a victory at the end as they did against Monaghan in the Ulster semi-final last year.

Fermanagh were assisted by what I would describe as a 15-metre wind in the first half, which made it difficult for Donegal but they still looked bereft of ideas for much of that opening period as Fermanagh's defensive shape knocked them out of kilter.

With all 15 Fermanagh players behind the ball when Donegal had possession the Ernemen were blocking the spaces for the inside forwards to run into.

Ernesiders showed total discipline and concentration

You have to commend Fermanagh as they needed total discipline and concentration in addition to a huge amount of pre-match preparation to get that shape in place so often.

But I never really felt Donegal were in any degree of trouble because they went in at half time leading and that was significant given the breeze they had played against and the fact that Fermanagh were going to have to try and come out a little bit more.

It was always going to be very hard for Fermanagh to sustain their concentration and energy levels for 70 or 75 minutes.

You might point to a late nervy moment for Donegal when Michael Langan blocked Daniel Teague's goal effort when there was only three points in it but it was really only a half-chance.

Donegal's Patrick McBrearty
Patrick McBrearty scored 0-5 in his first Championship appearance after an 11-month lay off

One of the big plusses for Donegal was Patrick McBrearty's form as he ended up with 0-5 after a slow enough start - which was to be expected after his cruciate ligament injury.

The ACL is significant for any sports person. In my time in Australia when a team-mate suffered it, a team meeting was always called to put a plan in place to get the player through the following weeks and months.

But in GAA, that's more difficult because you have a day job and that fight back to full fitness can be quite solitary no matter what the county does for you.

For McBrearty to even be back is a massive effort on his part. I expected him to play maybe 50 minutes on Sunday but he stayed on and got better and better.

Is it a red, a yellow or a shade of grey?

Paddy McGrath covered every blade of Brewster Park while venturing into the attacking zone and then making last-ditch defensive interventions.

He is a top player who slips through the net maybe in terms of recognition because all the focus is on the Murphys, McBreartys, McHughs and Eoghan Ban Gallaghers.

Some people will say McGrath was a shade lucky not to be sent off for his high tackle on Conall Jones when Donegal were leading 0-8 to 0-6.

Down's Caolan Mooney was red carded for a similar challenge against Armagh so you do have to wonder about the consistency of it all.

You might argue that there was a different severity of impact but I don't think the challenges were markedly different.

It was a lazy outstretched arm from McGrath. He wasn't aiming for the head but that's what happened.

Donegal's Paddy McGrath challenges Kane Connor of Fermanagh
Donegal's Paddy McGrath was fortunate to avoid a red card against Fermanagh

I spoke to Caolan Mooney and he told me that he was coming to block up the space with his body but because Aidan Nugent ducked his head the contact was a little high.

One was a red card. One was a yellow. That's the grey area we're in at the minute.

As for Fermanagh, Declan McCusker had a great game up and down the field with debutant Ultan Kelm also excellent and Che Cullen again showing the athleticism I witnessed at close quarters when I played with him at Queen's.

But Fermanagh's greatest attribute is their collective resolve and they will be hard for anybody to beat in the qualifiers - particularly if they get home draws.

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