Donegal’s attacking half-back Frank McGlynn is really enjoying the prolonged season with Donegal and his relaxed football style on the field is easily transferred to handling the media scrum that is part of the All-Ireland build-up.
“It’s a nice place to be in September. It’s a place, maybe, we’re not used to but we have enjoyed the weeks since the Cork game and getting back into training with the county team in the month of September.”
He feels that Donegal have come through a really big challenge when they overcame Cork in the sem-final. “For the full 70 minutes we were competitive for the whole game. In the first half it went to and fro for the whole first half, but lucky enough in the second half, in that first fifteen minute period after half-time, we stretched out to that four to five point lead and held on in the end. It’s something that pleased us a lot, the fact that we played for the full 70 minutes, especially against a team like Cork that are so fit and so physical. It showed that we have improved greatly in the last couple of years”
But while the Cork display was almost perfect, the concession of late goals in the last two games is something that is also exercising his mind.
“When you look at it we conceded more in the last couple of minutes of both games that than we did in the previous 50 minutes. It was something that disappointed us and is not ideal, letting a lead slip. It is something we will have to improve on against a team like Mayo come the All-Ireland final day.
“It’s hard to pinpoint (what goes wrong). You saw in the other sem-final, Dublin and Mayo, when you do get a lead up, you tend to subconsciously take the foot off the pedal a slight bit. I suppose at this level, we’re not used to playing at this level other than in the past couple of years, it only takes one chance for a team like Kerry, Cork or Dublin to come back at you. That’s the teams we have been playing against and they are good enough to take any opportunities they are given.
“It’s a matter of focussing now and not giving Mayo a chance to get back at us if we do have the lead.”
The Glenfin man has really been impressed with the Connacht champions. “When you look at it, over 70 minutes. I suppose we played Dublin only last year and only scored six points against them. Mayo put up 17 points against them and that’s a massive score against a defensive system that Dublin have and it’s something that not too many people in the country expected. It was impressive for long periods of the first half and indeed in the early periods of the second half.”
When asked how Donegal will cope with the tag of being hot favourites, he quickly deflects the issue. “I don’t know about the hot favourites. I suppose in previous games we have gone in as underdogs and we didn’t pay too much attention to that, so we’re not going to pay much attention to the favourites’ tag at this stage. It’s an All-Ireland final day and as we all know finals are there to be won and unless you go out and play to the best you’re not going to come out on the right end of the result.”
Now in is seventh year with Donegal, after making his debut as a 20-year-old in 2006, this year has been different. “Last year, even though we won an Ulster and got to an All-Ireland semi-final, the chances to get forward were few and far between from corner-back. Lucky enough, pushing out to the half-back line this year in periods of games, it has given us more opportunities for the team as a whole. Even midfielders and half-forwards, we seem to have had more of a chance to get forward and it’s paid dividends for us and we seem to be scoring more as a result.”
Before this year he says that he might have got a point in the league but had never scored in the championship. “I would play half-back all the time for my club and I would enjoy attacking. It’s always nice to put the forward on the back foot. At underage I would have been a half-forward, sometimes in the full-forward line but I gradually went back the way. Lucky enough I get up the field the odd time.”
Those scores included a great one with his left peg against Cork. “I suppose I was forced into the corner by Aidan Walsh and lucky enough it did happen to go over, but I think it was more as a last resort than anything else. The support wasn’t really there to pop the pass off.”
He feels there are many similarities between Donegal and Mayo. “For both ourselves and Mayo. I suppose they have been there in 2006, some of their players would have experienced it. From last year we would have enjoyed the days out in Croke Park and playing against the Dubs last year would have given us the taste for the crowd and the atmosphere that is going to be there. It is something that you have enjoy and we have been made aware that we are going to enjoy the weeks leading up to it and hopefully on the day, soak in the atmosphere and crowd and use that to our advantage.”
Frank is relaxed in front of the microphones and is happy that Donegal are still involved. “There are not normally this many microphones in my face, but it’s something you would rather be doing than sitting in the house preparing for the club championship. It’s something you have to enjoy when you do get the chance to do it.”
Playing in Croke Park is also a big bonus. “Years ago Croke Park was seen as a place where Donegal couldn’t win. In 2009, going to Croke Park and suffering a heavy defeat. For many years Croke Park didn’t have great memories for us, but lucky enough when we got there last year, we had a few games in the league and we used that to our advantage and we pushed on from there. Any day we get to Croke Park, we seem to enjoy it and make the most of it.”
There is also the incentive to make up for last year when Frank and the team felt they left a final place behind when going down to Dublin. He says they knew that they had to improve.
“When you score six points in an All-Ireland sem-final, that had to improve and when you look at the scores we are putting up now, that has improved and has got us to where we are now.
“Any way you win, or what way you reach an All-Ireland final, you are going to be happy with that. I suppose the performance in the semi-final should be a boost for the final; the fact that we played for the full 70 minutes against a team like Cork.”
Asked if the heavy training would mean that there is a short window for county footballers in the modern era, he says: “If you buy into that theory, you will always trick yourself into thinking that, but not reallly. Jim and Rory are very aware that we need to be kept fresh as well. Although we have done a lot of work, it’s something that they are aware of and they know when we look tired and the bodies are tired. It has worked for us all year and hopefully after this year it will continue to work for the next few years.
“When you’re getting results, reaching All-Ireland semi-finals and finals. It would be a different story if you were struggling to win championship matches in Ulster and not getting rewards for it. When you are getting the rewards, you don’t think about the early morning sessions or the long sessions.”
When pressed if there are any major differences between Jim McGuinness and Rory Gallagher, he sees none:
“The two of them work very well together. They speak a lot during the weeks. They both have ideas of their own and they aren’t afraid to give them to us. They both chip in and chip outin tarining and before matches.”
Frank watched the semi-final between Mayo and Dublin at home and admits that he was expecting Dublin to win. “I would be lying if I did say I wasn’t suprised. After very early in the game, 10, 12 minutes, Mayo were really up for the game and the longer the game went on, the stronger they seemed to get and that period before half-time seemed to make a huge difference in the whole game.
“They hit some massive scores at vital stages that shows that they have some very good players who are not afraid to take a shot,” says Frank.