Donegal Easily Pass their Mock Exam

When Donegal were relegated from Division One last year, I felt that we might find Division Two tough going if we weren’t at the races as it may well be more competitive, even if the standard is lower.  Well, after three games, I don’t know what I was worried about.  Donegal are taking themselves seriously, which should be obvious based on the teams that Jim McGuinness is selecting and the margins of victory we are enjoying.  A win down here might be less impressive than a win in Division One, but one thing is for sure – we are building confidence again after our annus horribilis that was 2013.  And Jim McGuinness is on record in talking about how much he values building confidence.

On Sunday, we were very sloppy at times during the first half. But, for the third successive game, we took our goals well, with Odhran MacNiallais’ finish especially impressive (as an aside, I wonder when was the last time a Donegal forward not called Michael or Colm scored 1-3 in a game?  Chris McNulty reminded me that it was Paddy McBrearty against Cavan in 2011, on a day when Michael Murphy saw red from Marty Duffy early on and one of Paddy’s scores was from a free whereas MacNiallais scored 1-3 from play). Martin McElhinney appears to have done everything to be considered a nailed on starter now, putting in another industrious performance and adding a fine point for good measure.  Karl Lacey is looking good at corner back, well, he looks good to me, others have different views, suggesting he struggled, but I think Ciaran McManus would test any defender.

My immediate verdict in the aftermath was that we were comfortable without being convincing. It was a bit like last summer’s Championship win over Tyrone – the goals were the difference. First off, you have to acknowledge that Monaghan were missing seven or eight of their first choice 15. Owen Lennon and Darren Hughes were massive losses at midfield and while they managed to plug the gap with Kieran Hughes, moving him out weakened their forward line. The lead was six at half time and the game was as good as over when MacNiallais struck first and sweetly at the start of the second half.  Despite a few sorties from the full back line from Fintan Kelly and then Drew Wylie that led to points, Monaghan never got close enough to suggest anything other than a Donegal win was likely and the challenge I was looking forward to seeing from Monaghan never seemed to materialise.  Still, Donegal took care of business which is always good to see – can only beat what’s in front of you etc.

The positives – Ryan McHugh, McElhinney and MacNiallais all played well. Right now, you would have to say that they should be in our first choice 15 but Jim has come out and said he sees the starting line up as more fluid than was previously the case so we’ll see I guess. One criticism of MacNiallais (and I saw this against Galway too) – he coughed up possession a little too easily in the lead up to Monaghan’s first point.  There was another very impressive cameo from Paddy McBrearty for the third game running. I haven’t checked, but I think he’s scored at least two from play from the bench in each game so far. It was also good to see Jigger in action, he did well, although probably should have taken a score himself late on instead of passing.  The one concern I have of course is that all these lads look good in Division Two which isn’t necessarily an indication of how they will perform come May.  Not to be unkind, but many of us would have felt that Brick Molloy wasn’t good enough for intercounty football, and yet he has impressed in what we’ve seen so far.  I hope that he has improved as much as it would appear, but we’ll have to wait and see.

The areas for improvement – well, there were a few. Michael Murphy probably had one of his poorer games in the gold and green and only had one point from a free to show for his efforts, but, he did assist for MacNiallais goal and there was one brilliant trademark flick at the death to set up a score for Declan Walsh. After a very encouraging return against Laois, Christy Toye’s performances seemed to have tailed off in the last two games, but perhaps that is not suprising given how much time he has missed and the fact that pitches are heavy at this time of the year. Launching Neil McGee as an attacker didn’t really work well, and I’m pretty sure he turned the ball over twice in the Monaghan half. Leo McLoone continued his habit of carrying into contact and looked fortunate to get two frees. I wonder – if/when everyone is fit, could we play McElhinney at centre half back? My concern is that he seems like more of an attacker than a defender, but he is stronger in possession, or at least better at avoiding contact than McLoone.

Hopefully Frank McGlynn isn’t badly injured – Jim didn’t seem to think so, but with Eamon McGee available again (I don’t know why he didn’t get a run on Sunday), I’d like to see Frank get a rest next weekend, even if we are short on cover at corner back with Paddy McGrath still missing.

After last summer, Meath appeared to be a team on the rise again.  They put it up to Dublin and Tyrone last summer, and in Donal Keoghan and Mickey Newman, have two very fine young footballers at both ends of the pitch.  They started their National League campaign by running up a big score against Galway, albeit they conceded heavily in the same game.  Since then however, their poor run of form continued against Ulster teams.  When you consider that Monaghan on current form ran up twenty points on them, you start to feel confident.  And, to throw away the lead at several times at home to that Armagh team and you feel more confident, even if Meath come getting desperate for points.  Donegal have home advantage – and Ballybofey is where we seem to have started building some kind of home advantage and so I expect us to win.

Until victory, always.

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One response to this post.

  1. […] think of Donegal’s potential, not last year’s Ulster Final performance. Forget about that game, forget about the league game in Letterkenny earlier this year and forget about the Division Two Final in April. There can be absolutely no […]

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