Donegal let off the Laois

We must temper any analysis of the Laois game by saying that the opposition were poor – probably worse than we faced in Carrick-on-Shannon last summer.  But, you could not but help be delighted in what you saw if you are a Donegal supporter.  First off, 2-19 is more than Donegal have ever scored in the league under Jim McGuinness – albeit only a shade more than we managed against Derry in March 2011 (2-18, but we conceded 2-11).  And it could have been more.  Next, the performances of Odhran MacNiallais, who helped himself to 1-1, but did blow another great opportunity for a goal, and Hugh McFadden, who contributed two points when coming off the bench and broke ball effectively at midfield, were encouraging for newcomers to the playing squad.  It was great chasing back and a turnover generated by MacNiallais that led to one of the McFadden points.  It was great to see two newcomers combining so effectively.

Anthony Thompson had a very good game, setting up the first goal and taking a point himself.  Mark McHugh looked fit and played very well.  We clearly missed Big Neil at midfield, but he’s on his way back and Rory Kavanagh is carrying an injury, so we’ll get better in that sector.  Martin McElhinney, while not a great fielder in traffic, got through a lot of work and helped himself to two points late on.  Even if the deadly duo Murphy and McFadden helped themselves to 1-9, including a brilliant goal from Colm, we still ended the day with ten different scorers which was great to see.

But, the most pleasing thing was undoubtedly the return the starting line-up for the first time in nearly two years (his last start came against Dublin in a league game in March 2012) of Christy Toye.  And it was not run of the mill outing; Christy was involved in so much of what was good about the Donegal performance on Sunday.  For a man who many believed wouldn’t pull on a County jersey again, it was great to see.  And I’m sure it was emotional for him as well, showing his frustration when a facial injury (in no way serious) ended his afternoon.  The travelling support rose to acclaim his performance when he was withdrawn.  We know what Christy has done for this team in the past and the possibility he can play a part again this year has me excited.

A word of caution however.  Sunday was Christy’s 122nd game for Donegal (via Chris McNulty) – it’s amazing to think that Christy made his league debut back in 2002.  There are a lot of miles on the clock, even if he missed over two years of football from 2009-2011.  Even in 2012, he was only used as a substitute.  Sunday’s game had nowhere near the intensity of a Championship match and so it’s too early to know for sure what he will bring come the summer.  Still, even if he does nothing else this year, it was a joy to see him play in Portlaoise on Sunday.

Any negatives?  Well, as said, Laois were poor.  This was not a good enough test to show us where we’re really at, and, looking at the result and stats from the game in Navan, we might be none the wiser after our trip to Salthill.  Still, we looked fit and focused.  But, we didn’t see enough of Karl Lacey to know if he’s truly back to his best.  Hopefully that will come in time, but, doubts will persist until we see evidence that he’s capable of the likes of the run and point against Kerry in 2012.  I also felt that Leo McLoone still needs to prove himself at centre half back – he was culpable of running into contact when bringing the ball out, which is something that needs to be addressed.  And, he wasn’t really tested defensively.  I’m not trying to look for problems, but I’d like to see him being run at before May.

So, we move on to Salthill, assuming that it hasn’t been washed away before we get there.  This is our first meeting in the league since Division One in 2009 when Donegal were undone by Michael Meehan (1-9) in Salthill on the way to our relegation.  Despite the relative ease with which we lost that game, we still managed to get our revenge fairly quickly, winning by a single point later that year in an All Ireland Qualifier in Markievicz Park.  On Sunday, Donegal will likely start with seven of the men that played that day, whereas Galway will start three, maybe four (Michael Meehan’s fitness is in doubt), reflecting their ‘team in transition’ status, with up to six of last year’s All Ireland U-21 winning team expected to be in contention.

We face a team that scored almost as much in defeat as Donegal scored in victory, and this without the services of Michael Meehan through injury and then Sean Armstrong, who was lost to a black card.  They also had a penalty saved, but still managed to score 4-11.  Impressive eh?  Sure, but when you lose the game and concede 3-18 from play and when Meath racked up 15 or so wides, something is badly wrong.  Donegal don’t lose high scoring games, so unless Galway manage to reinvent themselves within the next week, or, Donegal implode in the same fashion as we did last August, it’s hard to see anything other than a win.  Sure, I predicted we would lose when I did my preview, but, I reserve the right to flip flop on this blog when I feel like it!

Until Victory, Always.

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One response to this post.

  1. […] more focused.  It’s nearly two years since we’ve seen anything like that from Donegal.  Aside from our game against Laois earlier this year, can anyone say when we last played with the sort of verve we recall from 2012?  And Laois […]

    Reply

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