Donegal’s defeat to Tyrone in last Sunday’s Ulster final has been under the microscope this week, but according to one former player, things may not be as bad as they appear.
Management and players to a lesser extent have come in for a good deal of criticism from supporters and on social media following the 0-13 to 0-11 defeat to the Red Hands.
But according to former Donegal star of the 1980s and 1990s, Sylvester Maguire, it’s not all doom and gloom.
The Aodh Ruadh clubman argues that there were many positives to come out of the game and he insists the management got many things right in Sunday’s shootout in Clones.
However, he is also of the option that Rory Gallagher must give a number of the younger players in his squad their heads against Cork in the All-Ireland qualifier in Croke Park on Saturday week.
“Sunday’s defeat is not the end of the world. As I saw it last Sunday’s game was very similar to 2011 All-Ireland quarter final with Dublin,” insisted Sylvester.
“We got the defensive part of our game spot on though we might have been just a little looser than we were back in 2011.
“But overall we got the defensive set up right just like we did against Dublin. It was further up the field that the problem arose and it is something we are going to have to work on.
“We are going to have to get the ball into the scoring area much quicker and we are going to have to hit Michael Murphy and Patrick McBrearty with good diagonal early ball.
“We can do nothing about last Sunday now but if we have learned and if we can inject pace into the team and get back to breaking at pace like we did in 2012, we can still be effective.
“In fairness to the management they got the match ups right and overall I think they got a lot of things spot on. It was just that we did not close out the game.
“Some people are very critical of our defensive set up, but Tyrone were equally defensive and besides I’m of the opinion if we went toe to toe with Tyrone in an open and free flowing game, we would not have lived with Tyrone. It would have turned into a turkey shoot.
“I also think Sean Cavanagh’s equalising point was a wonder score and there are very few forwards in the game currently or in the past would have kicked it. It was a brilliant point under pressure.
“It was the final big turning point in the game and the last few Tyrone points from Cavanagh, Peter Harte and Kevin McGeary were all brilliant points.
“The were the scores that decided it, just like Michael Murphy’s three late points against Tyrone in the game in Ballybofey last year.”
Cavanagh’s wonder score may have been the final turning point but Sylvester Maguire believes there were two other big turning points.
One of them a clear push in the back on Eamon McGee in the Tyrone goalmouth in the middle of the second half and the other was the big big hit on Frank McGlynn late in the game that led to a turnover and a Tyrone score.
“Nobody seems to have picked up the push on Eamon McGee. I haven’t read it any of the reports on the game; none of the pundits on television or radio have picked up on it.
“But to me it was a clear push and a penalty and if it had been given and scored it would have been a big score. A goal was always going to be a big score in that game.
“We played too lateral on Sunday and had little or no penetration and we seem to have lost the ability to break from the back at pace as we did in 2012.
“The older lads don’t seem to have the legs for it and that is why we need an injection of youth for the Cork game.
“I think Eoghan ‘Ban’ Gallagher and Stephen McBrearty should be given a run against Cork. They are two quality players with pace and they will give us the pace to transition with speed from defence to attack.
“I don’t know what the story is with Leo McLoone. But if he is not injured he should be in the team and certainly I feel he should have been used last Sunday.
“When we weren’t winning ball in the middle of the field last Sunday, I feel we needed Leo. He would have got stuck in and won that dirty ball we could not get our hands on.
“Also in a game that was crying out for someone to run at the Tyrone defence and either break the tackle or win a free, Leo was the man.
“Managers sometime form the opinion that a certain type of player does not suit the system. That may be the case, but I don’t agree with it. I felt last Sunday’s game, the way it was panning out, was tailor made for Leo.”
Donegal now advance to play Cork in the All-Ireland qualifier and are just one win away from an All-Ireland quarter-final.
“I think there is no reason why we cannot beat Cork, but Rory is going to have to give the younger players a chance.
“I have every confidence in Eoghan Ban and Stephen McBrearty; they are good young players and they are up to playing at that level. They just have to be given a chance.
“And if by chance it does not work out so what; It’s not the end of the world. We have to be realistic; we are not going to win the All-Ireland. It is about getting ready for next year at this stage.”