Malachy O’Rourke expects Donegal to come back strongly

Monaghan knew they could beat reigning champions, says manager

For a brief period in the second half, it looked as if Monaghan might just canter away with this Ulster final.

Instead, they just about scraped home after five minutes of high tension – and Patrick McBrearty’s late attempt to secure a draw for Donegal is bound to be the subject of speculation in the days ahead.

It was typical of the nature of the fare between these two teams over the past three years: dogged until the last.

“I always knew that Donegal would come back, that’s the type of team they are,” said Malachy O’Rourke.

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“I still thought our shape was good, but we gave away a few frees which I wasn’t happy about – they were coming back at us.

“But I felt that unless we did something stupid, if we kept our shape and composure at the back, always felt that we would be there or thereabouts.

Keep fighting

“It looked like it could have been a draw, but knew the boys would keep fighting till the end and that’s what they did.

“The one thing about Donegal is they try to pull you out of position and exploit the spaces left behind. They started well but after that we got to grips with it, we didn’t give them much room to play.

“There were always going to plenty of turnovers so whichever team used the ball best – suppose we did for a while and Donegal did as well. There was nothing in the game.

“We were just delighted to win the game. I said before, Donegal were in their fifth final in a row, going for their fourth title, they have been in two of the last three All-Irelands. They are a top-class team.

“We knew that we would have to put in a really great performance.You will hear plenty more from Donegal. We are just delighted to win.”

Owen Lennon was sprung from the bench by O'Rourke before the parade. He says that his team-mates weren't fazed by Donegal's lightning start.

“I suppose you prepare yourselves in the weeks before that. Two years ago we went four up. Today we went three down after 10 minutes. That wasn’t going to be enough to win the game for Donegal. Eventually we got into our stride; we started going wide, we started to pick little holes in them. The biggest thing was that we believed that we could beat them there today.”

Recalibrate Rory Gallagher and Donegal will have to hastily recalibrate their plans now.

“It’s not the way we wanted to wake up tomorrow morning but that’s life,” Gallagher said.

“This group of players has had its up and downs and this is a day we obviously didn’t want, but we have to deal with it now and we will deal with it.

“We’ll be back tomorrow or Tuesday, whatever the lads decide, and we’ll get back at it.”

Keith Duggan

Keith Duggan

Keith Duggan is a features writer with The Irish Times