After the Laois game in Letterkenny you would have been forgiven for thinking that life in Division One might not last too long, such was the poor performance.
Against Cork last Sunday we looked more like the team of 2010. It would be fair to say in the first two National League games we didn’t have our strongest squad available to us but we didn’t play our usual defensive game which suited us and brought us a lot of success last year.
Maybe the criticism of certain quarters of the media encouraged the management to play a more orthodox type game where we didn’t have as many players behind the ball. Needless to say it didn’t work against two of the weaker teams in Division One.
Cork would have been considered one of the favorites, both for National League and All-Ireland success this year but last Sunday with the right game plan and with all our main players on the field (even if not fully fit) we limited them to six points and we never looked like conceding a goal.
Our strength is definitely in the way we defend and the way that the players work all over the field. Karl Lacey, who was back to his best last Sunday, is given great scope to join in the attack when he knows the likes of Ryan Bradley and Mark McHugh are covering for him.
The midfield pairing of Neil Gallagher and Rory Kavanagh are reluctant to go forward which also safeguards the defence from being opened up to easily.
The rest of the forwards seem to take it in turn to filter back and support the defence, maybe at times leaving just one man up front and at times the first man up to support that forward will be one of the half-backs.
It’s a simple enough game plan but it can only work if the players are fit, prepared to do the hard work which can go unnoticed by many supporters but is vital to the team. It also relies on players taking the opportunity of a score when it arises.
While the result was the most important thing last Sunday, it would be fair to say that a goal and seven points is not going to win you many games at this level. What’s needed in the next few games will be to build on last Sunday and maybe work on how to get a few more scoring opportunities without leaving ourselves to open at the back.
Considering how downbeat everyone was after the Laois game, the players responded well last Sunday with a number of very good performances.
The full-back line of McGrath, McGee and Frank McGlynn were excellent , because of the protection afforded to them; with the spare man they were able to attack the ball. Karl Lacey was outstanding throughout the seventy plus minutes and set up the goal for Murphy. Both Kavanagh and Big Neil (Gallagher) played a pivotal role in this victory and if both players stay free from injury their partnership in the middle of the park is as good as any around.
Up front while once again Michael Murphy was our best player, Colm McFadden looked hungry for the ball and will only get sharper as the league goes on. Mark McHugh and Ryan Bradley worked extremely hard and are central to the Donegal team management game plan.
While young Patrick McBrearty didn’t start, he was a constant threat when he was introduced and along with Martin O’Reilly (who was in no way out of his depth at this level) will only improve the more games they get under their belt, especially playing alongside the likes of Murphy and McFadden.
While the referee got a lot of stick from the crowd I would have to say I thought his handling of the game was excellent. In the first half he only awarded twelve frees and let the players get on with the game; he kept up with the pace of the game and was consistent with his yellow cards. In a week where match officials have come under a lot of scrutiny from the revenue and are always under pressure not to let games get out of hand, it was refreshing to see someone let the game be played the way it was meant to be and not blowing his whistle every time a player was tackled or went to ground.
Our strength is definitely in the way we defend and the way that the players work all over the field