Donegal aren’t done and dusted just yet - all they need is to look forward in anger
Jim McGuinness should have no trouble picking his team up for the qualifier against Laois
Monaghan hit Donegal where they were strongest, shutting down their full forward line including Vinnie Corey’s marking job on Michael Murphy. Photograph: Inpho
Listening to some of the talk about where Donegal go from here, you’d have to wonder at what people think they were made of when they won the All-Ireland last year. I’ve heard a few people say that it’s going to be very hard for them to pick themselves up to play Laois on Saturday. Or that they’re going to be feeling sorry for themselves and will struggle to raise a gallop. To me, that’s a total losers’ attitude. That’s curl up and die stuff.
I can take a fairly confident stab at what Donegal are this week. They are angry and annoyed. They’re pissed off at themselves, at each other, at everyone. They can’t believe they let themselves be dominated by a Monaghan team that basically beat them at their own game. And they are desperate to get back out on the pitch and start righting what went wrong. Hard to pick themselves up? I don’t buy it for a second.
People talk about this six-day turnaround as if it’s completely unworkable. But if you go back through the teams that have lost round four qualifiers in that way, I don’t think too many of them were world-beaters anyway. In the majority of cases, they would have been underdogs for the game regardless of preparation time. And the one thing that none of them were was reigning All-Ireland champions.
It’s only 10 months ago that these players won a great All-Ireland. And yet last Sunday you’d really only say that Neil Gallagher and Frank McGlynn came out of the game with any credit. Do people really think they’re going to accept that? Just lie down and take it? Where’s the evidence for that?
They’ll be raging this week. Jim McGuinness will be angry at himself for not seeing it coming. Monaghan attacked them where they were strongest – they shut down Michael Murphy, Colm McFadden and Patrick McBrearty and Donegal didn’t know where to go from there. It was simple enough stuff and yet Donegal looked bamboozled by it. They should have been ready.
Anger is a great emotion. Anger among team-mates – some of them your best friends – just reminds everybody that this is a serious business. Donegal would have sat down last night and had a bit of blood-letting amongst themselves. That’s vital, a good old-fashioned bit of honesty all round can only be good.
Laying down the law
If I was either of the two McGee brothers for instance I’d be laying down the law. I’d be saying, “Right lads, I know I didn’t play well at all but where was my protection?” Donegal’s whole full-back line strategy all along has been for the two boys to be well covered and surrounded with bodies. Now, all of a sudden, they were being asked to go man-to-man, which they haven’t been used to.
Fair enough, Mark McHugh going off was a big blow but Donegal still had 15 men on the pitch at all times. It’s not good enough that there was so little cover for the full-back line.