Donegal are not for turning now
THE SECRET to beating Donegal is, seemingly, no secret at all. Engineer a lead and surely their game plan will unravel; get a few points ahead and it should force them out of their impregnable defensive crouch.
Granted, they counter-attack better than any other football team right now but what if they are forced to go chasing scores?
“Thankfully that hasn’t happened to us this year,” said selector Rory Gallagher. “There has been a lot of talk about what would happen if a team got a run on us but I don’t think we would change that much.
“We will continue to play the same way. We are lucky to have good inside . We have the option of running or kicking the balls. We leave it up to the players to make the decision from what they see on the pitch.”
Gallagher knows about inside forward play, having been one of the most feared attackers in the country with his native Fermanagh from 1998 to 2005 before playing the 2007 campaign with Cavan. He was the top scorer in the Ulster championship for three consecutive seasons (2000-02).
Tactically, Cork knew what was coming in Sunday’s All-Ireland semi-final but simply couldn’t cope with the Donegal system.
“There is a lot made of tactics at the moment,” Gallagher replied. “The first half was difficult and we struggled to get to grips with Cork. I think they edged the first 35 minutes, particularly early on, even though we went in a point up.
“In the second half we changed a few things around and we suffocated them a lot easier than we had been doing. We let too many short kick-outs away and Cork snatched at a few chances they could have taken. In the second half we got it right, controlled the whole game. We were two-point winners but I think we were five, six points the better team.”
No arguments there.
Who would Gallagher like to face in the All-Ireland final? This was a loaded question as the 33-year-old is still remembered, and respected, on the Dublin club scene having won county and Leinster club championship titles with St Brigid’s in 2003.
“Put it this way: we are looking forward to getting down the road next weekend, me and Jim, it’s a nice journey to be taking. Whatever happens happens. The opposition changes every day. Ninety per cent of what we do is about ourselves anyway. Whether it is Dublin or Mayo we will have a plan for them.”
Returning to September football 20 years after Donegal won their first and only All-Ireland seems awfully like fate.
“I don’t believe in fate. I believe you get what you deserve. Sometimes you don’t get it but over the course of a period of time as individuals and a team you get what you deserve. We had Anthony Molloy in the dressingroom, so it was great to see that.
“But 20 years ago is of no relevance to us,” Gallagher continued. “It will be great for those players involved to look back. I’m sure they will be wishing us all the best.”
Should Donegal go on to win the All-Ireland there will be several images involving Frank McGlynn to cherish. The sturdy corner back has banked 1-3 in six championships outings. The goal against Down in the Ulster final put Donegal six points clear and prompted Jim McGuinness to give his chief lieutenant, Gallagher, a celebratory fist to the solar plexus. Gallagher showed no pain. The Donegal way, it seems.
The camera panned to the delirious crowd where one man held his son aloft as if he was the Sam Maguire.
“What has happened all year is no good to us unless we concentrate on the next four weeks. So we will. The supporters can go crazy. They have been fantastic, not only in the numbers they’ve travelled but the way they get behind the team. I know it means an awful lot to the players.”
McGlynn got his latest point 10 minutes into the second half of Sunday’s destruction of Cork. It put the Ulster champions three points clear. Just for a change he landed it with his left.
“It’s not often I score with the left foot,” he said. “I suppose it was more of a last resort than anything else. I didn’t see too many men in support of me so I was lucky just to put it between the posts.”
A Donegal player without any support, now that’s a rare sight.