Team work is best described by a quote by Mahatma Gandhi “a small body of determined spirits fired by an unquenchable faith in their mission can alter the course of history”.
Donegal’s victory over Derry cannot by described best by one thing because it takes a whole lot of factors to go right to win anything at sport but if a group of players pull together, take on board and trust whatever match plan the manager and his team set out and back one another to the last then you become very hard to beat and that is what made Donegal champions in 2012.
There has been a lot of negative talk about Donegal and the tactics employed by the Donegal management over the last few years. After 2012 I thought they changed more because of what was being said rather than playing to their strengths; it didn’t work.
I know there were other factors and reasons why we were not as good last year but for me one of the main reasons was we went away from what was our best way of playing the game.
We are not Dublin, Cork or Kerry; we don’t have the same array of talent at our disposal; we don’t have limitless resources to finance our underage structures and keep our best players within the county so it’s important we use what we have and Jim has always recognised that.
Last Sunday we got back to basics. If there was one point that stands out for me it was the fact that no other team manager would be brave enough to take Michael Murphy away from the edge of the square and use him to prop up the middle of the field. It says a lot of the way the manager thinks; it’s all about the team, the squad. It also says a lot about Michael Murphy, possibly the best player the county has produced, and he has no problem sacrificing himself for the team.
Donegal’s performance started at number one, Paul Durcan’s ability to pick out Murphy, Christy Toye and Odhran MacNiallais and his command of the square was vital, especially in the first half. I know the national press and all those who have this purist idea of how Gaelic football should be played will not have been happy to see 13 or 14 men behind the ball but that is the way the game is being played at the moment and it will move on; it will be played in a different way in ten years from now.
It’s hard to pick out one defender because everyone defended and the defenders that stood out, stood out because of the way they joined in going forward. Frank McGlynn and Anthony Thompson were exceptional and showed the form that made them All-Ireland winners in 2012; the McGee brothers as usual held their own and just love the intensity of championship football.
I thought earlier in the year that Leo McLoone might struggle at number six but with the reassurance of a sweeper behind him he showed the undoubted ability that he has; his goal was taken with the greatest of ease. Karl Lacey, who has struggled with injuries in the last 18 months, was back to his usual best, super performance and as hungry as ever.
The fact that Neil Gallagher and Martin McElhinney were deemed not to be fit enough to last the entire 70 minutes was a bit worrying especially as it created a problem in the middle of the field but both Christy Toye and MacNiallais carried the game to Derry in the first half and their work rate was exceptional.
Up front Darach O’Connor can be happy with his debut; his pace will certainly give Jim another option. Paddy McBrearty, on another day, would have had two goals but his willingness to work for the team and carry the ball from deep is a huge assist to the side. Ryan McHugh had another fine game for Donegal; his ability to read the game and help link defence into attack is a vital cog in the wheel.
Martin McElhinney showed great energy when he was introduced in the second half and with Rory Kavanagh due back it will give the management team the option of keeping Neil Gallagher under wraps until he is fully fit. It was great to see Paddy McGrath back after a long time out with injury; it says a lot of the man when even after such a spell out he looked as assured and comfortable as if he was never away.
Like Karl Lacey Michael Murphy has set a high standard throughout his career; last Sunday was no different; he worked as hard as everyone else in the first half and his dummy for his point after the goal and his sideline free were top drawer; exceptional player. While Colm McFadden hadn’t one of his better games, 150 competitive starts for your county says it all, one of the all time greats and his scoring stats are incredible.
While no manager can do anything about how players carry out their orders once they cross that line it was obvious on Sunday that both the management and the players were reading from the same hymn book. The Donegal senior squad has taken a lot of hits since they lifted Sam in 2012 but the players’ commitment to their manager is certainly there for all to see and talk of Donegal’s demise is certainly premature.
Great result for the county Minors on Sunday; all the hard work put in by Declan Bonner, his management team and especially his players has certainly paid off; good weekend for Donegal.
This weekend many club players are being asked to play two games. Last week Mickey Harte complained that his Tyrone squad would have to play club championship after playing two weekends on a trot. As Shakespeare wrote “there is something rotten in the state of Denmark”.