‘We came here to win the game,’ says disappointed Down manager James McCartan
Jim McGuinness had the look of a man who knew this was far from Donegal’s finest performance
“I felt we did have the chances to win it, and in the last 10 or 12 minutes, that last pass or ball just didn’t go to hand, was fumbled, whatever.” - Down manager James McCartan
“Well we did show up, anyway,” says James McCartan, resting one arm on his waist, and the other on the wall of the Down dressing room. “Some people told us not to.”
McCartan likes to tread softly even in heavy moments, because deep down inside the Down manager must have realised this was a game his team could have won.
“We came here to win the game, and ultimately, we didn’t,” he added, aware perhaps of the overriding sentiment at the end.
“I felt we did have the chances to win it, and in the last 10 or 12 minutes, that last pass or ball just didn’t go to hand, was fumbled, whatever. And maybe it was Donegal’s ability to stick the ball over from 40 or 50 metres out from Mr McFadden and Mr Murphy, that kept then ticking along, maybe even against the run of play.
“But we set it up, defensively, the way we wanted to, keeping them away from the goal, and outside the 50. Still they had the quality players to stick it over the bar.”
What is certain is that Down tested Donegal far deeper than anyone predicted, which may actually have had something to do with the end result: did they really believe they could win?
“Well, and I don’t like saying it again, but I felt we did that in the Ulster final last year, we tested them as well.
“We went to chase the game and left things open at the back, and that put a gloss on it in the end. I think maybe we played a bit differently, here, but still carved them up, in a different manner. But, they’re a quality team. We felt we had them on the back foot, but they took more of their chances. They’re not All-Ireland champions for nothing.”
Jim McGuinness had the look and language of a man who knew this was far from Donegal’s finest performance, but sometimes, if they can still win that way, that’s the day you learn a lot.
“Well there was a lot of nonsense talk, in the lead into this game,” said the Donegal manager. “A lot of stuff about big winning margins. Complete and utter nonsense. Every single game is a different game.
“That was one of them games where we were very much tested, very much challenged, and people were wondering if we’d have the bottle. I could actually feel that coming from the stands. And when you’re missing four or five big players, like we were, to find a way through that, is the most pleasing aspect.
“But we were planning for that sort of game out there, knew it was coming down the tracks. And I think that’s what stood to us, when the game got very tough there, in the second half. We kept on going, kept trying to find a way. It’s nowhere close to our best performance, we know that. But we found a way to win the game, playing within the rules of the game to do that, and just worked hard for each other.”