Archive for June, 2012

The Twilight Zone

It’s odd being in this position. Favourites.  Expecting to win. Getting praise from all quarters.  It almost seems like the perfect storm.  It makes me a little uneasy to be in this position.  Sure, Donegal looked impressive in their first 2 championship games, but it would be foolish to buy into all the hype that is circulating at the moment.

A well known pundit recently compared Donegal to the All Blacks. If that was an appropriate analogy, then I would expect Donegal to beat Tyrone by 20 points on Saturday and go on to win the All Ireland without Michael Murphy.  And we’d also get away with a lot of cheating.  None of this is what I want to hear, especially not when we’re not even at the Ulster Final stage yet.  Retaining that would be an achievement in itself.  As far as I’m concerned, the only plaudits we need are from our own supporters and fans – the rest can just keep their opinions civil and reasoned.  Donegal don’t need and I don’t want their praise.  For good reason.

I travelled to Killarney this year and witnessed Donegal take quite a beating.  Of course, this was just a league game, but Donegal travelled with a full team and Kerry were missing the Gooch.  It would have been nice to give them a game, whatever about the result. Likewise, we went toe-to-toe with Dublin under the floodlights, and the outcome may have been different had it not been for an injury to Michael Murphy, we might have come out on top, but we ended up on the wrong end of a 2-16 to 0-13 scoreline.  A missed opportunity to gain some level of revenge for our defeat in last year’s war of attrition.  To balance this, Donegal handled Cork (who are now regarded as the number 2 team in the country) easily enough in a low scoring affair in Ballybofey, and beat Mayo easily in a very strange game in Ballyshannon, so we have some form against the better teams in the Country.  But it’s worth keeping in mind that while Donegal will have improved from the league, it’s certain that most other contenders will have moved into a higher gear as well – Dublin and Cork being good examples.

Most of us agreed that it felt weird to come away from an Ulster Championship game feeling so good about things, but that’s how it was in Ballybofey 2 weeks ago.  Sure, Derry were very poor, but Donegal were good, even with Michael Murphy operating at around 60%-70%, and they still looked like they had plenty left in the tank if they needed it.  It was similar against Cavan in some respects, although I’d argue that Cavan looked a better team than Derry, as evidenced by the margin of the Donegal victory.  Donegal have scored an average of 19 points in their first 2 games this year – evidence of our increased scoring power (or so the experts say).  I’ll be interested to see how much we score against Tyrone this weekend, or indeed who much we would score against a Dublin, Cork, Kerry or Kildare.  I doubt we get to 19 points in 70 minutes.  But I’m open to persuasion.

To this weekend’s game, if I look at where both teams have come since they last met in last year’s Ulster Semi-Final, it’s hard to see how Tyrone have improved enough to overcome Donegal.  Not to mention that what’s happening in Mauritius at the moment could be weighing in Mickey Harte’s mind. The loss of Sean Cavanagh is potentially huge, and Philip Jordan has left a massive hole in the half back line as well.  Donegal are minus Kevin Cassidy, but the rest of the defence is playing at a very high level.  Armagh had more than enough chances to take care of Tyrone early and late in the game, and Armagh are not a good team anymore.  Derry never had a sniff against Donegal.  On that basis, I’ll take Donegal by 4 points on Saturday.  I may even put my money where my mouth is. If that’s not a kiss of death I don’t know what is.