Jim McGuinness says composure key to victory
Michael Murphy pays tribute to Lacey’s ‘phenomenal’ work rate in defence
Derry’s Sean Leo McGoldrick is tackled by Karl Lacey of Donegal during the Ulster quarter-final at Celtic Park, Derry. Photopraph: Inpho
Not for the first time since he began to patrol
the sideline for Donegal, Jim McGuinness found himself asked about feelings of vindication and about silencing the critics.
“I don’t care,” the Glenties man said brightly. “Not one hoot do I care because for us the most important thing is the Ulster championship. We won today. Derry presented a massive challenge. They have been going really well and brought a lot of confidence into the game and played with that confidence. That’s a difficult thing to face down.
“When you are out on the pitch, teams feed off the other team and when your team know the other team are playing with confidence it is difficult for you to be dominant and push on. But I thought our lads faced that challenge well and held their composure.”
McGuinness was required to carry out last-minute surgery to his midfield and explained a strategy that unfolded beautifully over the hour.
“Martin McElhinney has started every single game this year but we felt we had to hold him back because we had Christy Toye give us ‘x’ amount of game time and Martin could come in and lift the thing and Neil Gallagher was just a case we didn’t really want to put him in if we didn’t have to.”
Donegal’s reconfiguration and scoring blitz just after half-time effectively decided the game but while Michael Murphy was as laconic as ever as he stood on the field answering questions after the match, his eyes narrowed when it was put was put to him that all the talk would be of an another Ulster final for Donegal.
“Where’s that talk? Aye well, it won’t be the talk between our four walls anyhow. We have a massive game coming up now whoever comes through the other quarter final.”
But the odds will have shortened considerably on Donegal. They touched their best form during stages here, with their defenders adding menace and imagination to the attack. Chief among those was Karl Lacey.
“Phenomenal,” Murphy said in tribute. “ The work Karl has put in this year has been second to none. He has always put it in . . . he put it in last year but couldn’t get over the line in terms of game time. He has been travelling up and down from Limerick and very rarely missed a training session.
“It is a credit to him and everyone who came back from the injuries we picked up. Karl Lacey is a four-time All-Star and a footballer of the year and you don’t come across one of those every day.
“We were very confident he would do a job for us not just defensively but going forward he was phenomenal. To have a player playing like that is a massive bonus.”
For Brian McIver, the second half represented a rough 35 minutes. Apart from that helpless period just after half-time when Murphy wreaked havoc, Derry didn’t do all that much wrong here.
“Yeah, that floored us. We were six points down and worked our way back into it with a couple of great scores and if Gerard O’Kane’s effort had gone over it was back to a point and the game was really in the melting pot. It was a real tight game and both sides had to work very hard to get their scores.”
McIver grimaced when asked how about the refereeing decisions. The threat of the black card did little to weaken the intensity of the challenges on both sides.
“The least said on that performance, the better,” McIver said.
This defeat leaves Derry in an uncertain position after all the promise of their league form. But few counties will fancy meeting them.