Back to Croker
Talking to Donegal supporters in the wake of Sunday’s defeat against Monaghan and the upcoming trip back to Croke Park to meet Dublin on Sunday, the recurring theme is the lack of enthusiasm to make the journey.
I suppose that is only natural, given that Sunday’s defeat was the fourth in-a-row and there is a big number of supporters now who never miss a game.
Looking at Fr. Seán’s Book of Facts, you have to go back to 2003 for a similar dip in form, when Donegal lost six league games in-a-row.
In recent times, while there have been relegations, there have been dips, but never four in-a-row.
To read anything into our league form is very difficult, especially as we played so well early on, but there is a pattern of fade-out in games which is worrying. But then teams are always being fine-tuned for championship so only the management will know if that fade-out is a problem or that Donegal have delayed their pre-championship build-up.
The loss of Eoin McHugh on Sunday to injury was a factor and hopefully the injury will clear up quickly. Many felt that when he had to go off on Sunday that it was the perfect opportunity for Caolan Ward to replace him, but the St. Eunan’s man has still to be given any real game time, and the opportunities are running out for this year.
Being paired with Dublin in the semi-final means that Donegal will face a tough 70 minutes in Croke Park on Sunday. However, it will also present an opportunity to try out different things in a very competitive environment. Few will give Donegal a chance of making the final, but come June 12th, what happens in the league will be long forgotten. That date in MacCumhaill Park with Fermanagh or Antrim and the games thereafter in July and, hopefully, August, is what will determine how 2016 will be remembered.
Last week I mentioned the old chestnut of teams not being available to supporters or press until minutes before the throw-in and changes being made thereafter. Both counties were guilty of this on Sunday, with the programme teams being called out and then, minutes after, changes being announced. All of this just minutes before the throw-in. It is so unprofessional and also so unnecessary. Barring late injuries being picked up in the warm-up, team lineouts should be available for supporters arriving at the ground (if not earlier). One wonders what great advantage there is in keeping this information. There are regulations in place for championship which mean that panels have to be finalised on Thursday and the final line-out provided 20 minutes before throw-in. These regulations should be applied to league games also.
Discipline hinders U-21s
Two red and one black card did not help the Donegal U-21s as they bowed out of the championship to Tyrone on Wednesday night of last week in Celtic Park.
It was a disappointing end as Donegal could and should have had the game wrapped up at half-time.
A lot of time and effort was put into the preparation of this U-21 team with weekends away and entering the North West Cup, and they will be disappointed that they have not fulfilled their potential.
The scenes at the end with a large number of players and officials involved in a melee will probably lead to further punishment. No matter what the provocation, we have to learn to deal with defeat in the proper manner just as teams have to deal with success in the proper manner.