SATURDAY WAS the first time I left Croke Park feeling so sick since I stopped playing.
To lose the way we did having not performed well just left people scratching their heads.
I thought that, tactically, Donegal got it wrong and didn’t change it.
I found it hard to believe some of the match-ups that Donegal went with the last day, but it wasn’t that so much as the sticking with them and not switching them that left me confused.
There were a couple of big ones.
With all due respect to Karl Lacey, Saturday night wasn’t the right game for him in the role that he was given.
It was poor to play the lad as a half-back against some of the fastest players in Ireland.
For me, Karl Lacey is the best player ever to wear the Donegal jersey, but that doesn’t make it right that he was put up against John Small, especially when you look at everything he’s come through with injuries.
We should have let Karl be a ball-player on Saturday evening. It was unfair on him to have him doing what he was doing. It’s nothing to do with Karl as a player or ability, but about physicality and where he’s at. We didn’t make the best use of him.
There was the curious case of Martin O’Reilly. People will say that he stumbled for that goal chance of Diarmuid Connolly’s after 13 seconds. He shouldn’t have been the last man.[adrotate group=”38″]
Martin shouldn’t have been the player that Donegal put on Dublin’s best player; arguably the best in the country. Why didn’t we have a defender on Connolly?
The third one was having Neil McGee marking Bernard Brogan.
Here was our best man marker stationed on a guy who was badly off form. Why not take Neil off Brogan and put him on Connolly.
People will point out that Connolly was out the field a lot. So what? Neil doesn’t have to be stood in the full-back line for a while game. Paddy McGrath and Eamon McGee are well capable of marking Brogan. We needed a presence in that game last Saturday and we didn’t really have one.
The fourth thing that killed Donegal was the lack of a functioning forward line.[adrotate group=”81″]
We conceded just nine points in the first half, but the problem was that we scored only four ourselves. We had some performances on Saturday that were well below par.
We dropped three shots short under no pressure and we carried the ball into the tackle too often.
Michael Murphy went inside looking to get a bit of magic, but Donegal, criminally, popped the ball over his head three times. Drop it short in front of him, Michael will get there; stick it on his chest and his dangerous; a small bit high for him and he’s in with a chance. But Donegal boomed the ball so far away from him he had no chance. Three times!
An obvious factor in Donegal’s defeat was that they stayed too long in their shell. They should have come out and gone full court press, especially when Dublin were down to 13 men.[adrotate group=”38″]
In the 71st minute, Dublin were playing keep-ball, taking the piss a bit actually. And they had only 13 players on the field.
We weren’t ready for that. At that stage it should have been: ‘Boom, let’s go for this’.
It was a case of go for it or go out.
When a team playing a blanket defence is getting beaten and they stay in their shell, it’s suicide.
When it was 15 v 13, why not give up the sweeper and get go at it?
Donegal’s defence played pretty well, but it was mainly in the front division that we lost the game. Our first point from play was by Anthony Thompson late in the first half. That told the story.
After Ryan McHugh’s goal in the second half, Donegal shot two wides and dropped another short,
Even playing horribly, Donegal could have really rocked Dublin. I’m not saying that Dublin were there for the taking on Saturday, but they were beatable.[adrotate group=”70″]
At 12-9, Donegal had chances, but the game was gone after that. We pulled it back to three points again late in the game, but I think it was over by then to be honest. We were clinging on at that point, but in the 60-70 minutes beforehand we had opportunities to be well in the game.
I’m at a loss to figure out the thinking behind some things.
Dublin had obviously and clearly decided that if they were in the lead that they’d just keep the ball.
I remember with St Eunan’s playing Naomh Conaill one time, the same happened. Naomh Conaill would lead games and just keep the ball off you. Why wouldn’t they?
Some will say that it was smart of Dublin to do what they did, but it was so glaringly obvious and it’s actually what Donegal should have done to Tyrone in the Ulster final.
That was where Donegal should have pressed high and pressed hard. It was in those moments that Dublin were vulnerable to making a mistake. Donegal should have gone after it, hunted it down.[adrotate group=”68″]
I couldn’t believe that we didn’t have a plan to do that. Surely it’s been talked about in those many meetings Donegal have had, but it never looked like it was on the table to be activated.
There weren’t many Donegal players who could say they played well and they still might have got a result.
Donegal were getting through the heart of Dublin. You never get through the centre of teams now, but Donegal were getting in every single time.
The problem was that we just didn’t have an ace up the sleeve. We didn’t have anything to say: ‘Right, come on’. We had Murphy in and just didn’t deliver the right ball in, but there seemed an absence of a plan B.
It was just a sickening way to end the season because I do, genuinely, believe that Donegal could have made it to September.[adrotate group=”53″]
Two greats call it a day
ON THE bench at Crossmaglen in June 2010, the television cameras picked up on Colm McFadden and Eamon McGee apparently having a joke. Donegal were being hammered by Armagh and on their way out of the Championship.
McFadden and McGee were hammered again when the cameras picked up on their light-hearted moment.
It was the day Colm made his 100th appearance for Donegal and after that game – which ended John Joe Doherty’s tenure as manager – some wondered if we’d ever see them play for the county again.
Back they came and both were pivotal in that magical season in 2012. I played alongside the two of them early in their careers and know first hand just how good they were.
Colm was breath taking in 2012. When the chips were down, he was the man time and time again – but he has been that way all through his career. He had one of the best left foots ever to play the game and he’ll, rightly, go down as one of Donegal’s best ever.
Eamon came in as a kind of attacking half-back and he was a vital piece of the jigsaw because of his ability to take the big man. Without him, Donegal wouldn’t have won the All-Ireland. He was such a rock for the defence to be built on.
That day in Armagh was the lowest of the low.
It’s ironic that they came back and went on to be two of Donegal’s most consistent players during a golden era and now bow out together.
Best wishes to them – and thanks for the memories.Tags: