Down…but not out

Note – I copied this here from http://marklawrensonmustbestopped.blogspot.ie/ which I now dedicate to soccer.  All my GAA and Donegal posts now go on here.

Part 1

June 14 this year was probably my low point as a Donegal supporter. Losing to Antrim on your home ground in the Ulster Championship is bad enough, but it was as much the manner of the loss as the fact that we had lost to what was regarded as the worst team in Ulster at the time that left me feeling so deflated.

I remember texting one of the lads (on holiday in Italy) at half-time and saying that it felt like I was watching a McKenna Cup game in January-the performance and the atmosphere were unbelievably flat. It was essentially the same old, same old, with only 1 new face (Michael McGuire) in the starting line-up, and below par performances from some of our better players (Barry Dunnion and Kevin Cassidy among others). I expected a different story after the break-‘hair dryer’ treatment and a raft of changes would have been the order of the day-but no, one change, based on the late realisation that we didn’t need 6 defenders if Antrim were employing a sweeper (which they had done from the throw-in).

The 2nd half unfolded in nightmare fashion-the low key feeling continued, right up until when Anrim cut through us for a goal-where the stupidity of one player and the sloth of another combined to make us look like a Junior team. After that, Donegal started to rouse themsleves, but it was much too little, much too late and we were out of the Ulster Championship-an Ulster Championship where we were heavy favourites to win out and meet Tyrone in the Final-Donegal can never seem to take 1 game at a time any more.

Note-I posted the following on another site already, so I’m not plagiarising!

The Sunday Game focused on Donegal’s wides and the free awarded to Antrim at the death, but In reality, Donegal did not deserve to win for reasons that went beyond these 2 issues. The lack if intensity was shocking and the standard of play (shooting, passing etc) was awful.

It’s actually difficult to single out individuals to blame for the Antrim debacle-the general play was so poor that you could have easily justify 10 changes for our next game, but, as I suspected, this did not happen.

Donegal should have beaten Cork in an All-Ireland Quarter-Final less than 3 years ago. Cork have kicked on since then, improving every year, and are seen as All Ireland contenders this year. This is in stark contrast to Donegal, who cannot even contend for an Ulster title (and the current team/panel does not look like doing so anytime soon).

John Joe Doherty has presided over relegation and a 1st round Championship exit to a team that was probably ranked 9th in Ulster before yesterday. In addition, we had only 1 championship debutant in the starting 15, and our most consistent performer (IMHO) during the league (Toye) was on the bench yesterday. What John Joe has given us over Brian McIvor isn’t immediately obvious to me.

Congratulations to Antrim-they deserved victory and it has proved to be something of a springboard for them. Their attitude should serve as alession to our players, and the joy of their supporters after their Semi-Final victory over Cavan was a sight to behold-especially for a Donegal man starved of such scenes by his own county.

P.S. the commentator on The Sunday Game was some feckin’ eejit. I won’t go to the trouble of posting his name, but it wasn’t funny listening to his take on this game. That’s what happens when you reach rock bottom though-you are allocated commentators (and indeed referees!) of lower quality.

Part 2

The Qualifier draws have been kind to Donegal so far-home fixtures against Carlow and then Clare should have allowed the team to show us thatAntrim was a fluke (in performance terms at least), but, from what I have read and heard, that was not the case. Unfortunately, I was not able to attend either game due to other commitments (despite my disappointment at the Antrim result, I would have liked to have been there to see for myself were Donegal capable of turning things around), and so will say no more than that on those encounters.

And….I missed the Derry game! Just when hope appeared to be lost, and I had wagered moderately heavily on various outcomes that all involvedDerry winning, Donegal gave their long suffering supporters cause for hope with an extra-time victory that seemed unlikely to even the most optimistic supporters on Saturday afternoon. Their position appeared not to be helped by the absence of former captain and primary midfield ball-winner ‘Big Neil’ Gallagher and half-forward Ciaran Bonner through suspension from the panel for ‘disciplinary reasons’.

This is the first time in a long time I’ve missed 3 Donegal games in a row-I will right that wrong this Saturday in Sligo-where Donegal meet a Galway team that faces high expectations, but has yet failed to impress (me) in Connacht Championship clashes against Sligo and Mayo. Galway have fine forwards, but they all rarely seem to hit form together. Of course, Donegal will more than likely start the game with a patched up midfield (Christy Toye lost for the season through injury and Big Neil unlikely to return).

I don’t expect Donegal to win, but I’m a wee bit more optimistic than I was this time 7 days ago. Roll on Saturday.

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