The lack of performance was hardest to take - McLoone

The lack of performance was hardest to take - McLoone
Leo McLoone’s face and demeanour said it all as he made his way from throwing his gear on the team bus to the players’ lounge high up in the Hogan Stand.

Leo McLoone’s face and demeanour said it all as he made his way from throwing his gear on the team bus to the players’ lounge high up in the Hogan Stand.

His face was ashen, his head was down and his shoulders were drooped. But the Naomh Conaill clubman, who is normally quite media shy and not one known to blow his own trumpet, stopped to chat with a few hacks, deep in the bowels of the Hogan Stand.

His look had all the appearances of a man who would rather be anywhere in the world but facing an inquisition into why Donegal had lost the biggest game of the year.

Yet, close to an hour after Eddie Kinsella had blown the final whistle, his manner was respectful and his answers were polite, though short and to the point.

Like most Donegal people, Leo was still coming to terms that the team that more or less breezed through Ulster, and had played champagne football against the reigning champions and championship favourites Dublin in the semi-final, had ended on the wrong side of Sunday’s result. “Kerry, like all Kerry teams were very hungry and they always play well in finals and they did so again today,” said Leo, as he tried to make sense of the 2-9 to 0-12 scoreline.

“We just didn’t get the performance that was required and a lot of men didn’t do it and never got into the game.

“Their first goal coming as early as it did was a killer blow and put us on the back foot from the word go. We did recover from it and were level at half-time and did go in front at the start of the second half. But we did not kick on after that and allowed them back into the game.

“We didn’t get the performance today and to be honest I don’t know the reason for that. It may have been, as you say, the All-Ireland fever that was widespread throughout the county.

“I honestly don’t know the answer to it right now other than that is football, that is sport, when you go out to play you never know and every day is a different day.

“Some days you get the performance; others you don’t and unfortunately today was one of the days when we didn’t get the performance required and as a result ended up on the losing side.”

Donegal scored a stunning 3-14 to 0-17 victory over Dublin in their previous match, following a first class honours second half performance in that game.

They recovered from an early Dublin blitz and going five points down twice in the opening 20 minutes, to pull away in the second period to win pulling up by six points.

The game was heralded as one of the games of the 2014 championship and one of the best displays ever by a Donegal team.

“We got the performance the last day against Dublin and everything went right for us in that game. Unfortunately today things just didn’t go our way and nothing went right for us and we never got the performance up to the level of the Dublin game.

“Kerry were good alright and they are a good young footballing side but we did not play to the level we played against Dublin. And we needed to reach that level again if we were to be with a chance of winning.”

Leo was one of the few Donegal players that was prepared to run at the Kerry defence.

But every time he did he came up against an iron Kerry curtain across the half-back line who were not behind the door in throwing their weight around.

On each occasion he drove at them he was met with a barrage of heavy hits and crunching tackles.

But after watching Eamonn Fitzmaurice’s men in their earlier games the physicality they brought to Sunday’s game came as no great surprise to the teak tough Rosses Community School teacher or any one in the Donegal camp.

“It was something we were expecting. We knew they were going to be physical after watching their two games against Mayo.

“They were very physical in both of their games against Mayo, especially the replay where they put in a number of big hits and were very physical in the tackle.

“It did not come as a surprise to us at all and we were ready and prepared for it and it is not the reason why we did not perform to the level we are capable of playing at.

“And that is why it is so hard to take right now. We are going to have to go away now and sit down in a month’s or so and re-evaluate our situation and try and find out what went wrong.”

The thoughts of a number of players in the Donegal squad may have begun to turn to their futures in the green and gold and may have begun to ponder retirement.

Leo McLoone, who is 25, was not one of them. In the loneliness of defeat on Sunday evening he was already finding sanctuary that 2014 was another year with a whole new horizon.

A whole new Ulster and All-Ireland championship beckons.

“I know it is hard to look forward to next year today because right now we are all just very disappointed with the result and even more so with the performance.

“But we’ll never find to the draw for the Ulster Championship and once that is made we will turn our thoughts to that and defending our Ulster crown.”

That’s the spirit Leo.