I always find it amusing how Donegal football is perceived nationally. Since Jim McGuinness revolutionised the game, we have come under serious scrutiny.
We are being blamed for introducing negative tactics and in the process turning the game into a dull spectacle.
Our players are coming in for a fair amount of criticism too. Some national journalists are trying to make the most of the Rory Gallagher and Jim McGuinness split. I read an article in a Sunday newspaper last weekend where the writer openly scoffed Jim McGuinness in respect of a proposed film that is to be made on the former Donegal manager. Donegal football is obviously a thorn in the sides of many people.
The fact is that Jim McGuinness is the most successful Donegal manager ever. He turned a group of under-performing players into household names, winning three Ulster senior titles and an All-Ireland title in his four year reign as manager. Is it any wonder that we find McGuinness, Rory Gallagher, their players and Donegal football captivating and intriguing?
It’s in everyone’s nature to be successful, to be the best and to be winners. Rory Gallagher inherited a team who were beaten in an All-Ireland final in 2014. The only person qualified to assume control at the helm was Gallagher.
I was there in 2012, 2013 and 2014 as part of the Donegal medical back room team. I didn’t go about my business with my eyes closed. Rory’s input to Donegal’s success cannot be understated. I attended all meetings in relation to preparation for games as did everyone else involved in the Donegal set-up. Gallagher is shrewd, articulate and tactically proficient.
The McGuinness and Gallagher chemistry was something to behold. I was saddened to learn of Rory’s departure but it happened and we had to move on.
Donegal is in yet another All-Ireland quarter-final. This is a credit to Gallagher and the players. There will always be side-shows. I believe that most Donegal supporters are not interested in rumour and silly talk. We are only concerned about Donegal, irrespective of past events and despite national prejudice.
It was interesting to listen to the Kerry versus Clare half-time debate on RTE television last Sunday. The common consensus was that Kerry were trying out systems that would be effective against Dublin. But for a short interjection from former Dublin player Ciaran Whelan, Donegal were written off.
Let’s consider a different scenario. If we had won the Ulster title then Tyrone would be playing Dublin. Would these panellists dismiss Tyrone as they did Donegal? Certainly not.
Donegal did not win the Ulster final but they were the superior team. We notched up 21 points against Cork last Saturday, a commendable tally in any game but especially against one of the top rated teams in the country.
Dublin for their part have been matched against inferior opposition to date. This isn’t their fault. They will not relish this encounter with Donegal.
Our lads are battle hardened at this stage having played Fermanagh, Monaghan (twice), Tyrone and Cork. Dublin’s toughest games apparently have been their in-house games against their B team. They will get their first serious test on Saturday.
Donegal can upset the odds and as I forecast last week the odds have shortened from 1 million/1 to 11/2. So as Lloyd said in the film 'Dumb and Dumber', “So there’s a chance?”.
I also feel that Donegal can overcome Dublin by playing adventurous football and unleashing our massive talent.
I know that Rory Gallagher will have his tactics in place to not only compete with Dublin, but to beat them.
Our lads played really well against Cork and they will bring this great form back to Croke Park on Saturday. There is no better time than now to play the outstanding favourites in this year’s championship. Dublin are untested and will certainly have doubts as to their current form. All the pressure is on them to perform.
Donegal will go into Saturday’s game as no-hopers, just as we have on all other occasions when we’ve played Dublin in the championship. Dublin will be well aware of their failures against us which will play on their minds.
I feel that Donegal will again cause heartache for Dublin. This will be an occasion to savour because not only are Donegal playing Dublin but we have the side-show encounter of Mayo and Tyrone which will warm up the crowd for the main event.
I feel that Tyrone will edge this one. Connacht football is in a poor state as we witnessed last Sunday when Connacht champions Galway failed miserably against Tipperary.
One cannot take away from Tipperary’s enthusiasm but Galway typified everything that is wrong with the game in Connacht.
I would like to wish Rory Gallagher and his team all the best for Saturday.
Tír Conaill Abú!