Donegal giant-killers silence blue masses

Their unravelling of champions one of great triumphs

 Delighted Donegal fans after the final whistle at Croke Park yesterday. Photograph: Alan Betson

Delighted Donegal fans after the final whistle at Croke Park yesterday. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

It may only be a matter of time before Donegal’s emigrant stonemasons return to start chipping and hammering Jim McGuinness’s likeness into the side of Mount Errigal.

Yesterday, in front of a spellbound full house in Croke Park, the Glenties man brought a supposedly declining Donegal team to play against a Dublin team considered invincible.

What unfolded on a gorgeous afternoon in the capital brought a shocked silence to the blue masses jammed into the Hill 16 and transported the swooning Donegal support into a vague utopia. From down the decades Muhammad Ali’s immortal cry could be heard faintly: “I shocked the world! I shocked the world.”

Unravelling

Three years ago, the booing rang out in Croke Park and McGuinness and Donegal were heavily derided for introducing a new defensive stratagem to the game which produced a claustrophobic semi-final.

Yesterday, that defensive complexity was in rude health and with it a stunning counter-attacking game which yielded two goals for Kilcar’s Ryan McHugh.“Three years ago we delivered a fantastic defensive performance but we only scored six points,” said McGuinness later. “We were hoping that the honesty would be there from the group.”

In the first minutes, Paul Flynn led a spectacular Dublin charge with three magnificent points and the city fans warmed to the idea of another sacrificial offering to the Hill. Dublin led by 0-7 to 0-2 after just 20 minutes.

“We just kept it tight because once they smelt blood they were going to go for goals,” recalled Donegal defender Eamonn McGee.

“It was no big surprise. And there was no wild panic.”

Instead, it was Donegal who struck for goal and Dublin found themselves in a strange and cold new place: losing a classic match at half-time. On television, Joe Brolly, bespectacled and gleeful, announced: “The nightmare is upon them.” So it was. Dublin were slowly sucked into the vortex of Donegal’s inimitable defence.

Looked lost

Christy ToyeNeil GallagherMichael Murphy

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