Whatever the reason, Donegal gave a very flat performance in the opening half against Roscommon in O’Donnell Park.
Reports that Donegal trained on Saturday may be a possible reason for the flatness. If those reports are true it may reveal that the management were not looking on the game as a must-win fixture.
The only other possible reason for the first half flatness was the burger-scented smoke which enveloped the end which Donegal were defending in the opening half!
But on a serious note, Donegal do seem to be on a different track in recent games, as regards playing patterns and tactics. In the opening games Frank McGlynn was started up front but spent most of his time on the pitch in a defensive role.
Maybe it is because of the absence of McGlynn, but in the last two games we have played a more traditional game with no extra cover. It has left some big gaps, which were exploited especially on Sunday last.
Playing the two McHughs in the half-back line and letting them run with the ball will always leave space and if the ball is turned over then there will be trouble, especially for the full-back line.
The explosive running of Eoin McHugh might be better used from the half-forward line where his initial burst would break the opposition half-back line.
On Sunday last, Roscommon looked fitter than Donegal, but they operated like Donegal of the recent past, with a player protecting the full-back line and breaking at pace all the time.
The reports that Donegal trained on Saturday could be part of the answer for the Donegal flatness, but one feels that we might have to revert to getting our defensive set-up in place and build from there if we are to make an impression later in the year.
As it turned out O’Donnell Park capably held the 7,142 which turned up on Sunday last. What kept people away is probably wide and varied. The men, women and children who did turn up, turned up early with the stand full announcement made at 1.29, just over an hour and a half before the football game.
Writing about a venue for a county game can be an emotive issue and obviously my comments last week were read with interest by the county treasurer, who I encountered as I arrived at O’Donnell Park on Sunday last.
He wanted me to clarify my comment about “local administrators” and the “fixing of county games”. I had a discussion with him on the matter and told him that he may have taken my comments out of context. Last week, in my column, I mentioned that “it is a difficult decision for local administrators to move an intercounty game”. Mr. Kelly forcefully countered that “local administrators” do not decide the venue for National League games.
Asked if “local administrators” had no input whatsoever, he admitted that they made recommendations at the start of the year but that Croke Park made the final call.
Venturing an opinion on the issue is always going to be taken as bias, but as I said last week, my opinion on the issue would be the same if the game against Roscommon was fixed for Ballyshannon.
For those of us who are involved for close on 40 years, the ‘battle’ to get a game in Ballyshannon and Letterkenny has always been fought to the death in the boardroom and that is likely to continue.
We will never know for sure, but we could have had another 11,000 or 12,000 attendance in MacCumhaill Park if the game was not all-ticket. That would have produced extra revenue in excess of 50,000 euro. Maybe Croke Park would have looked more favourably at Donegal’s appeal of their 7,500 euro fine for the battle of Tralee if they were presenting them with that sort of extra revenue!
Before I finish, it would be unfair not to commend the St. Eunan’s club and their Park Committee for the way they hosted Sunday’s game. The arrangements were excellent with excellent stewarding in the grounds and outside. The comments on the venue are no reflection on them. It is an opinion based on the views of many people throughout the county. County games and attendances have grown with the success of Donegal and the venues for certain games should reflect that.