Jim McGuinness is claimed in many circles to be a tactical revolutionary in Gaelic football but the Donegal manager refused to call for change in another facet of the game - the rules - after his side were denied in Pairc Ui Rinn by a callous late challenge from Eoin Cadogan.
With Cork three points up, Michael Murphy in the closing stages dropped his shoulder as the collective cry from those in attendance shouted “goal,” only to be rugby tackled by Cadogan in a manner that might’ve pleased Declan Kidney as much as Conor Counihan.
The incident took place just outside the square and although there were cries from the visiting support to send the Cork defender off, referee David Coldrick couldn’t have been blamed for applying the letter of the law.
“I don’t know if it was a penalty or not, but it was pretty obvious what the tactic was whenever Michael got through on goal,” McGuinness said. “That’s neither here nor there. In regards a rule change there’s no comment. I’ll leave that to other people.
Although Donegal flew from the traps in a dingdong first quarter they lost their way in the second half and allowed Cork to build up a head of steam. The performance wasn’t littered with errors but there were a number of things that McGuinness would like to see ironed out.
“From our own point of view it is disappointing. The quality of the ball inside all day was very poor. Every time we did get a quality ball, it was off-loaded and we had a goal chance.”
“We’re disappointed. We had a couple of goal chances in the second half. Ross Wherity had one and Michael Murphy was pulled down for the second one. It was disappointing because, had one of the two gone in, we could possibly have got something out of the game.
“Overall, our play was a bit sloppy, in the second half particularly. We weren’t our usual selves, but we’re in the middle of a training phase at the minute and that kind of was reflected by the way we played in certain periods of the game.
“We were 0-5 to 0-3 ahead at half-time, but they were twelve-seven up at one stage. Cork kicked nine points to our two in that period so that was probably the defining moment in the game in terms of whether it was going to be won or lost. In fairness, they showed great resolve there. They kept going the whole way to the end and created a couple of scoring opportunities and got it back to the two points.”
The number crunchers will have a more definitive total but as things current stand in division one Donegal have four points and that’s two more than Down, Kerry and Mayo. There are many permutations but a win in Castlebar on Sunday will more or less guarantee Donegal’s top flight survival with a game to play.
“Next week is the big game for us now,” McGuinness said. “That’s the great thing about football – we’re disappointed tonight, but we’ll be back in training on Tuesday night for Mayo.
“We know where we’re at and we’re still not at the level that we need to be at. Cork had big spells in the second half with a lot of possession, but for us it is about getting up the levels.
“We looked at Michael in the middle of the park and tried a few other different things in the game. We tried to win the points at the same time. We’re trying to balance those things all the time. Hopefully we can go to Mayo and pick up two points.
“I think we’re probably there or thereabouts where we were last year. We’re maybe a wee bit ahead in terms of our overall conditioning. We’re reasonably happy, but we’re disappointed with our second half performance tonight. If we had upped our levels 10 or 15 per cent and one of the goal chances had gone in, we’d have got something out of the game.”