Archive for May, 2012

8 Months Later

Note – I copied this here from which I now dedicate to soccer.  All my GAA and Donegal posts now go on here.

So here we go again. It’s hard to believe that this team contested an All Ireland Semi-Final less than 8 months ago – well at least that how it seems to me. Not that I’m saying we weren’t good enough to be there, it was just so unexpected, even with a new manager in place at the start of last season.

League form, especially in Division 1, is not really a good predictor of Championship form. Donegal beat the 2 teams that contested the league final relatively handily and yet we had to grind out a win at home to Armagh to avoid relegation. Donegal were poor in their first 2 games and were blown away against Kerry. There was no great shame in losing to Dublin, but you would have to acknowledge that on the night in question, Donegal had more of their first choice players available. All 3 wins came at home, and in the only one of those 3 games I actually saw live, Mayo were so bad in the 2nd half that I can’t believe they managed to stay in the division, let alone contest the final.

I don’t think  that Donegal were under too much pressure to unearth any new talent in the league, which is maybe just as well, as it’s likely that we will still lean heavily on those who have served us so well in the past. Absent our All Star Number 7 of course. Still, quite a number of players have played well (Neil Gallagher and Anthony Thompson) and others have showed good signs of progress (Paddy McGrath and Leo McLoone especially; Paddy McBrearty less so). Marty Reilly and Declan Walsh have come into the panel and have showed well at times, but it’s too soon to say what impact they will have come the heat of the Championship.

I think it’s fair to say that our defence shouldn’t be much of a concern (although the number of goals conceded during the league does bother me, perhaps more than it should…), but there were areas where this team were expected to improve this year. I think it’s fair to say I haven’t seen too much difference in our approach to games – I don’t know if we’ll see any repeats of the 8 points to 6 score line from last August’s All-Ireland Semi-Final, but equally I don’t think we’re likely to play with the carefree abandon that so many who make their living giving their opinion to the camera or the printed media would implore or demand we do.

And that’s fine. But, I think repeating the same ‘trick’ as 2011 will be much harder this time round – starting in the preliminary round again makes the road long and hard and full of pitfalls. It’s hard to see Cavan causing an upset this weekend, but if I think back to last year, take Michael Murphy out of the game and it becomes quite a marginal affair. So you never know, and if Colm McFadden doesn’t step up, we don’t have the scoring forwards to get us over the line – Paddy McBrearty is a tremendous prospect, but he’s still developing, and is not yet ready to carry the team on his back like a fit Murphy can do. Not many can in fairness. But, the most troubling thing to me about the league was that while McFadden and Murphy were out for the opening 2 games, none of the other forwards drafted in looked capable of stepping up. I realise of course that we managed to win our last game without Murphy, so maybe I’m being overly negative.

As to our opponents on Sunday, Cavan, well, I won’t confess to know much about them, but did keep an eye on their league form (Division 3, where they won only 2 games and just avoided relegation), they just sacked their manager and lost possibly their best forward. On the bright side (for them), they won the Ulster U-21 Championship (again) and at least they have 15 players who want to play for their County and not self-serving sorts who will seemingly do anything to play for a County on the basis that they might win a Leinster Championship.

So it’s hard to know what to expect. But, if I’m honest, the result doesn’t really depend on what Cavan do, it will be how well the better team play that will determine the outcome. I’d like to think that Donegal will play well enough to win. There is another Ulster title the winning this year – retaining it would be an achievement in itself; it would be an awful pity to fall at the first hurdle. Bigger challenges lie ahead.