Donegal’s evolving approach has been heralded in wider circles of late but Frank McGlynn believes it’s merely natural progression.
While Donegal were lambasted last season for ultra-defensive tactics this year they’ve been received more warmly, particularly after steamrolling Derry in the Ulster quarter-final earlier this month – an evening when McGlynn was named man-of-the-match.
Credit, like criticism, can be easily spouted but the Glenfin native maintains the panel under the stewardship of Jim McGuinness are happy to worry about each hurdle when it comes and then leave the opinions to those on armchairs or in the stands.
“Last year there probably was a focus on getting our defence in order first of all,” McGlynn says. “If you look at the previous couple of years we were shifting heavy scores so last year we worked hard and you could see that.
“This year, we’ve realised if we want to be as successful as we hope to be then we’ll have to put up the scores a bit more often. Lucky enough they have been so far. In terms of fitness, we’ve just built on the work we did last year. We’ve carried it on from the league. We’re just focusing on one game at a time.
Donegal were only the second side in 66 years – after Armagh in 2005 – to win the minefield Ulster championship from the preliminary round last term. This season they aim to retain the Anglo-Celt Cup for the first time ever - once more from the preliminary stage.
“The preliminary round can be awkward at the time but if you can get past it then it can work as a benefit,” McGlynn adds. “Going into the Derry game after a win over Cavan we had a decent enough performance although not to the level of intensity Tyrone will be at. We played well enough against Derry and it’s something we can build on.”
McGlynn played most of his recent football in county colours at corner-back but has lately been moved to his more natural habitat at wing-back. It’s a role he enjoys, even prefers, but with defensive options plentiful remains content if he’s claimed a starting berth.
“Certainly from the chance I’ve been given so far this year it’s been good so far,” he adds. “I’d like to keep it going. It’s my favourite position but any position will do. Last year, although we weren’t scoring as much, we as defenders were still encouraged to get up the field pretty often.”
Donegal’s acid test, like last year, is an Ulster semi-final against Tyrone in Clones. Twelve months ago late goals from Colm McFadden and Dermot Molloy acted as a springboard as Donegal won a first provincial title in 19 years before going as far as an All-Ireland semi-final.
However, McGlynn remembers, from all that went on last term, the one time Donegal looked beaten was against the side managed by Mickey Harte. And although Donegal came out of that particular tunnel the trouble Tyrone caused them has not been overlooked.
“Any time you ever play Tyrone in the championship it’s always a massive test,” McGlynn says. “They’ve been one of the top teams in Ulster for the last 10 years and but for a few wayward shots and them not taking their chances last year it could’ve been a different story against us.
“We got going in the second half but the first was probably the poorest half we played all year. We really were lucky they didn’t take some of those opportunities and we did when they came our way. Tyrone, last year, were going for three-in-a-row in Ulster and there’s no doubt they’ll have a good focus this year in getting past Donegal and getting a bit of revenge on us.”