Donegal have just final leg to climb
CHAMPIONSHIP 2012 ALL-IRELAND SFC SEMI-FINAL:STRIP AWAY the frenzy and park the emotion just for a minute. Ignore the tears that spilled from fans in every row of every stand and the clasping, grasping hugs shared by whole clumps of Donegal supporters. Forget it all and get down to brass tacks. Donegal are in an All-Ireland final for the first time in 20 years and they’ve beaten Tyrone, Kerry and Cork to get there. Hillary and Norgay never saw a mountain that size.
That’s not the way to look at it though. At least not in Jim McGuinness world it’s not. In this world it’s the mountain that changes, not the climber. It’s the mountain that forgets all it ever knew, all that ever worked before.
And still it finds Donegal too nimble, too agile, too quick. The upshot was they beat Cork here by 0-16 to 1-11. The reality was that they should have done it by plenty more.
Cork’s goal came in injury-time after a bout of ill-advised Olé-Oléing from Donegal that will presumably have earned those involved an afternoon of writing out lines on a blackboard.
They kicked 14 wides, including more in the second half than in the entire quarter-final against Kerry. They turned what had been a tense and airless game at half-time into a tumbling cascade by the end, leaving the stadium (a) in paroxysms and (b) wondering just who has it in them to prevent a second All-Ireland title heading to the hills. Fancy saying either of those things 12 months ago.
“When I took over the job,” said McGuinness later, “you wouldn’t believe the amount of people who said I was off my rocker. I was off my head. Donegal is a poisoned chalice. Them players will let you down.
“And it has been the opposite to that. Every single thing we’ve asked them to do, they’ve done it. They’ve made a commitment to their county jersey. They have brought football on in the county and they’re in a final now on the back of that and I just hope we can go the final leg of the journey.”
Some may predict they won’t, but nobody will say they can’t. They made Cork look like analogue beings in a digital world. The worst mistake you can make is to think it’s just about matching their intensity. It’s about so much more – being smart and staying calm, breaking when the break is on and holding back when it isn’t.
First they broke Cork’s will, then they came for their legs. No matter how well you prepare, the challenge of seeing an ocean of yellow shirts between you and the goalposts, and having no time to settle or think, must be a killer.