It was a good start to the Rory Gallagher era for Donegal. The second half display against Derry was impressive and augurs well for the year ahead.
The new manager will be anxious to put his own stamp on Donegal’s play and if there was one aspect that seemed different on Saturday night, it was the freedom which the players seemed to have to take on point-scoring chances.
This was best reflected by Christy Toye, Martin O’Reilly and Patrick McBrearty, who hit some great points from distance.
There was plenty of apprehension, though, at half-time as Donegal looked to have allowed Derry dictate the game. That apprehension lifted early in the second half and both Patrick McBrearty and Michael Murphy were winning anything that was pumped forward. Wouldn’t it be good to see this tactic employed at various stages throughout the year. McBrearty looks really charged and his decision-making was excellent.
With the two league points in the bag, the journey to Croke Park to meet the Dubs will be more relaxed. Eamon McGee can renew his friendship (and banter) with Eoghan O’Gara, which was part of the battle back in August.
Dublin had a very unfamiliar selection last week on their trip to Cork, but they will be stronger this week.
There was some surprise last week on Saturday evening when it was learned that Hugh McFadden was starting at midfield for Donegal for Martin McElhinney.
There was some discussion in the press box but there is an opinion that talent such as McFadden as well as other younger players must be nurtured over the next few years.
Looking forward, there is an inevitability about the retirement in big numbers of this great Donegal team. Donegal have to be ready for that and over the next few years, that could be the greatest challenge for Rory Gallagher as manager. It is not an easy task, but there is talent coming through at minor and U-21 level which has to be harnessed.
There are panel members who have been around for a few years who must not be forgotten either. Declan Walsh has served his apprenticeship; Daniel McLaughlin is back and energised; Eamonn Doherty needs to be pushing now.
I hope Ciaran McGinley gets another chance. He was no worse than most of the team in the first half on Saturday last. To be making your league debut with a team on the back foot for most of the first half was not a good place to be.
St. Eunan’s veteran, John Haran, not shy at expressing an opinion, had a comment on the make-up of the team last weekend, wondering if it was more profitable to win the All County League than the Championship. It was a swipe that Kilcar had four players on the starting line-up and St. Eunan’s had none.
It’s early yet and you have to factor in the Rory Kavanagh retirement. There is some good young talent at St. Eunan’s and they will have the Ulster U-21 Championships (Club and County) to make an impression.
It was never more important to bring young talent through.
Hopefully, by the middle of May we will be talking more about that talent!