Do donegal have the 
substance - I think they do!

Gerry McLaughlin


Gerry McLaughlin

Do donegal have the 
substance - I think they do!
Let’s be brutally honest. Donegal have about as much chance of beating Dublin as Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness have of agreeing on anything of substance (or so they are saying).

Let’s be brutally honest. Donegal have about as much chance of beating Dublin as Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness have of agreeing on anything of substance (or so they are saying).

After all the county is facing a county with its own quasi Abramovich (according to Jim McGuinness) and popular opinion seems them as the so-called Untouchables and real Gaelic Galacticos.

The strange thing in Donegal is that nobody is able to put up a convincing argument that Tir Conaill can win.

There are loads of cogent reasons how Donegal’s massed defence and a few sleights of hand from Jim McGuinness could make life difficult for the Dubs but no reasoned road map for victory.

It is so very much like 1992, it is eerie but good eerie.

But that was a different time when you could take a peek at the Dubs in training.

Any curious soul caught within a mile of Jim Gavin or Jim McGuinness’s secret, almost sacred sessions is in danger of having their nose cut off.

We have now reached the time when the gloves are almost off, and the more horrific clichés folded away in this cloying season of wasps and weird stories.

Dublin’s biggest enemy is not Donegal, but their own human weakness that might actually believe some of the guff that has been written about them.

And the stats do not back up this frenetic drive by the bookies to blow Dublin over the line, before a ball is kicked.

On the last two occasions that these sides met Dublin won by two points in 2011 and the second match ended in a draw in Ballybofey last year.

Of course everybody is saying that the Dubs have improved immeasurably since those two encounters.

In 2013, they were very lucky to get a draw in Balybofey in a match where Jim McGuinness wondered about some strange refereeing decisions from the whistle happy Michael Duffy.

And in 2011 Dublin just edged out Donegal in a dour battle.

Now, while Dublin have improved immeasurably since those two encounters, Donegal are much better than in 2013.

Of course the last outing against Armagh did not inspire a great deal of confidence, and it was alarming how Armagh were able to open up the left flank of the Donegal defence in an opening 20 minute period, when they dominated.

Odhran MacNiallais’s goal stopped certain defeat because Donegal just did not have the firepower up front to haul back a six or seven point defecit.

True, Tir Conaill showed real grace under pressure in those final two points that turned disaster into triumph.

As always Jim McGuinness has been as measured as a Jewish tailor in his comments about this match.

He has spoken very generally about game plans, goals… “where we want to be” and most importantly, commitment.

The only real chink of light came when one journalist asked him if they were just going up to Dublin to give the Dubs a “scare” he quickly pointed out that Donegal’s ambitions were much greater……and quite rightly so.

Two years ago, when Donegal won the All-Ireland the whole country was saying that the county was relying too much on Michael Murphy and Colm McFadden for the bulk of our scores.

But Murphy has been like the brave Dutch boy, putting his finger expertly into every leak, while Colm McFadden has been relatively quiet.

Murphy’s versatility has been very useful this year as his re-location to midfield and defence has left gaps for players like the highly mobile MacNiallais to exploit.

And the scores have flowed from MacNiallais and a rejuvenated Patrick McBrearty.

Potentially, Donegal have the forwards to nail the Dubs and Michael Darragh Macauley can be contained possibly by either Rory Kavanagh or Martin McElhinney…an ageing Dick Clerkin kept the marauding midfielder very quiet against Monaghan.

The McGees have been playing very well in defence but how will they cope with the Brogans.

Will big Neil go man for man on Eoghan O’Gara or will Eamon or Karl Lacey take on Bernard Brogan.

Diarmuid Connolly is both a battering ram and a brilliant finisher while Kevin McManamon is so used to nailing the killer scores.

But, in my view, Dublin’s greatest single threat is Michael Murphy’s old buddie, Paul Flynn who is a true man for all seasons and could rip Tir Conaill apart.

But, Michael Murphy apart, the most important thing for Donegal is that Karl Lacey is fully fit…if that is so, the Donegal can a few points.