'Savage scores' denied Donegal - Gallagher


'Savage scores' denied Donegal - Gallagher
Peter Campbell sport@donegaldemocrat.com @dgldemocrat

"Look, it was a really exciting end to end game. It was a game that there were lots of ebbs and flows and we're probably a wee bit disappointed that we didn't close it out.

“But listen, Monaghan are a great team and you've the likes of Conor (McManus), who kicked them savage scores, fair play to him," was the immediate reaction of Donegal manager, Rory Gallagher, after the game.

The game was decided, in the end, by the freetakers and McManus, while he missed one early on, was really on top form in the final minutes, landing two monsters from outside the 45m line.

Asked about the fact that Donegal’s freetakers, Michael Murphy and Patrick McBrearty, had missed chances, especially the captain, Gallagher said:

"I'd say pressure is a big part of it. I know from Michael's point of view, he's not that long back training and I'd imagine the game will do him the world of good. But look, it happens I suppose.”

Donegal, despite losing a man midway through the second half, got their noses in front with a great goal from Odhran Mac Niallais and not closing out the game was one of the factors which allowed Monaghan to draw.

"We'd be disappointed we didn't see it out. There's no doubt about that. We were in a good enough position. Monaghan got the frees, whether they were frees or not,” said Gallagher, who when asked about a certain animosity creeping into the battles between Donegal and Monaghan (it was their ninth game in three years between league and championship), said: "Look, there was a lot at stake and we know each other very well. And I suppose it happens in games like that.”

However, what really made him happy was the way Donegal responded when things were going against them, especially after going down to 14 men.

"It was backs to the wall and I thought we showed great character. We were disappointed to lose Marty (McElhinney). I don't think we could argue with the black card, but the yellow earlier on? But we responded really well and scored a great goal.

"We should have had a goal earlier on. We started the second half well. Young Ciaran, he had No. 3 on his back, probably the reason he didn't finish it. Overall, I thought we battled and battled.”

There was a light hearted moment when Gallagher was again asked if he was concerned when Michael Murphy missed three frees in-a-row.

"I was. I was thinking of putting on the boots myself," laughed Rory. "But look, we showed great character. The boys are going to have days like that but I wouldn't fancy them to have too many more," said Rory, who wasn't blaming anyone for giving away the frees at the end.

"You could argue about that, but we were under serious pressure out there. Monaghan were in the ascendancy and players are maybe not making the decisions that they possibly could have and that's what happens, you know.

"I thought we had it a couple of times. When you see Eamon McGee nearly scoring a point; it doesn't happen too often. Christy (Toye) got the point, but look, you never write Monaghan off; they are a great battling team.”

There was some confusion on a couple of occasions near the end when it seemed Donegal had an extra player on the pitch, but Rory wasn’t too worried.

"I honestly didn't notice it. I got told it after. Look there was a lot going on; it was helter skelter and it's not easy.”

The manager said there were positives to take from the game. "I was happy the way we started. It is very difficult to get a four or five point lead, as it is for them. You always look for a good start and get a goal. The positive thing from our point of view was that we looked like getting goals a couple of times tonight.

"We had a goal chance at the start of the second half and then we found ourselves 10-7 down, which is a lot in a game like that,” said Gallagher, who praised the younger players for their contribution.

"I thought Ciaran Gillespie was top class, but then he is so laid back, we didn't have any doubt about him. Eoin McHugh grew into the game and Marty O'Reilly did quite well as well. So overall, it was very positive from that point of view.”

He was also happy with the way Paddy McGrath had handled the Monaghan danger man, Conor McManus. "I think he got only one point from play. When we look back on the video, I don't think we can be sore on Paddy McGrath. He is a top player and that point (from play) was an outstanding score. No doubt Paddy was a good fit for him and we were quite happy with that," said Gallagher, who also felt that Karl Lacey was "incredible".

Looking forward, the manager said it was always going to be a difficult game and getting to an Ulster final is never easy.

"We played some great football. It is a massive prize to get. It's hard to get six in-a-row. We never got anything easy; we had to fight for everything.”

Asked if it would be hard to lift the side for the replay, he had just one line.

"It will not be hard at all," concluded Rory.