Donegal braced for showdown with resurgent Galway
Improving Tribesmen likely to ask serious questions of Rory Gallagher’s side
Michael Murphy: wasn’t moveing with his usual freedom for Donegal in the Ulster final against Monaghan. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho
How quickly perceptions shift.
If Donegal had managed to scrape past Monaghan in what was a cagey, claustrophobic Ulster final, the general view would hold their All-Ireland credentials to be in good order.
But this match has been presented as a potential last stand. Is that true?
Losing to Monaghan was a big blow. Having taken out Tyrone, Armagh and Derry, they now face an All-Ireland path that could potentially involve games against Galway, Mayo, Dublin and Kerry.
It is a huge task for Rory Gallagher’s team and the only way to make it fathomable is to take it one game at a time.
And how perceptions shift: a year ago, Galway reached the All-Ireland quarter finals in Croke Park accompanied by a vague dissatisfaction that things weren’t what they should be.
Alan Mulholland, the manager then, could permit himself a wry smile at the fact that Galway have now reached the same stage through the same means but with a gale of optimism behind them.
Galway won well against Armagh and won ugly against Derry in Salthill. Oddly, the nature of the latter win was the cause for optimism.
Galway’s ability to produce pretty passages of play was never in question. Kevin Walsh would appear to have introduced a defensively pragmatic approach suited to the times.
That, allied to the belief that Mayo’s domination of the west won’t last forever, has hastened a belief that Galway’s good years are ahead of them.
Gary Sice has been the outstanding player and leader of this campaign but Walsh has also managed to temper Gareth Bradshaw’s attacking instincts and is drawing a highly productive season out of Danny Cummins.
The loss of Karl Lacey is a blow to Donegal but may facilitate the return of Leo McLoone or Anthony Thompson.
Then Glenties duo were quietly devastating members of Donegal’s All-Ireland-winning vintage and may yet have a big say in this season.
The seriousness of Michael Murphy’s injury remains to be seen but he was not moving freely against Monaghan.
A posting at full forward would seem sensible but it is unlikely Galway will permit him a one-on-one match up against Finian Hanley or anyone else.
While it is true that Donegal’s senior men do not have too many miles left now, it is up to players like Odhrán Mac Niallais, the McHughs and Patrick McBrearty to lead the way in terms of energy.
Donegal will set up as they always set up. Galway will probably try to outwit them at the same game.
This is – possibly – a coming Galway team but much depends on the Donegal frame of mind.
The feeling here is that whenever they go, it will not be gently.
Donegal to advance.
GALWAY: B O’Donoghue; J Duane, F Hanley, C Sweeney; L Silke, G O’Donnell, G Bradshaw; F O Curraoin, T Flynn; G Sice, P Conroy, M Lundy; A Varley, D Comer, D Cummins.