Donegal left Croke Park disappointed on Saturday night after a bruising encounter with Dublin in the second series of matches in the National League.
It wasn’t pretty at times with Dublin set up much differently than last season, with a defensive wall. They were determined not to leak goals against Donegal this time and they succeeded.
At the end of the contest, the two goals scored at the Donegal end were the difference between the sides.
The Donegal performance was good at times, but it was also littered with errors which will need to be addressed if survival in Division One is to be achieved.
The results elsewhere in Division One at the weekend didn’t go well for Donegal as every team, bar Derry, are now on the board.
From the outset of the campaign, the spotlight from a Donegal point of view was on winning their home games and that will remain.
When the management sit down this week to analyse Saturday night’s game it will be a long session.
Donegal were opened up very easily for the two goals. Putting the spotlight on Paul Durcan’s kick-out only partly explains the first Dublin goal as three Dublin players were involved before Cormac Costello finished to the net.
Dublin were intent on disrupting Donegal and especially Michael Murphy. The Donegal captain is now being targeted by most teams and deserves much more protection. The treatment can get to Murphy, who is not the most tidiest tackler.
But once again Saturday’s match showed how important Murphy is to the Donegal game plan. But going forward playing the Glenswilly man close to goal is the best way of counteracting this abuse as teams will be afraid to give away fouls that will be punished.
There were plenty of positives, too, from Saturday night with the continued good form of Christy Toye, Patrick McBrearty and Neil Gallagher, and also the return of Neil McGee.
We must also be grateful that we have such an able deputy for Paul Durcan in Michael Boyle, who was faultless when introduced.
It’s hard to believe that he had not started a League game since 2010 (against Kildare which Donegal lost 1-9 to 1-17).
His patience is something that Donegal followers should not forget. It is also something that his fellow players should respect. He was subjected to a barrage of abuse from one of his fellow players on Saturday night which was commented on by a few Dublin supporters as being totally out of order. Maybe this sort of behaviour is par for the course but one would think it wouldn’t be a great way of building team camaraderie.
The three week break before Cork come to Ballyshannon for the next game is probably welcomed by Rory Gallagher and his backroom team. It will give them time to remove the bobbles from those hats that make them too visible under the lights!
They will have questions for themselves too. A lot of supporters were surprised when Hugh McFadden was replaced when he was going well.
But overall, it is a learning process for them, too. We must remember that we are just two games into a seven-game league. The crucial part will come in the first week of March, when Donegal entertain both Cork and Monaghan. By the evening of Sunday, 8th March we will have a better idea of what sort of battle we will be involved in. Two wins and that battle will be a place in the final; anything less and the battle could be for a different prize!
Pos. Team P W D L F A Pts.
1 Cork 2 2 0 0 3-29 1-32 4
2 Monaghan 2 1 0 1 2-29 2-23 2
3 Donegal 2 1 0 1 1-26 2-22 2
4 Kerry 2 1 0 1 1-27 2-24 2
5 Tyrone 2 1 0 1 1-20 2-20 2
6 Dublin 2 1 0 1 2-26 1-26 2
7 Mayo 2 1 0 1 3-18 1-21 2
8 Derry 2 0 0 2 0-25 2-32 0