Donegal’s All-Ireland quarter final clash with Dublin in Croke Park last weekend went along predictable lines.
Dublin, hoping to put All-Ireland titles back to back, went into the game raging hot favourites against the Ulster runners up.
And while five points separated the sides at the finish, (1-15 to 1-10), it was game that Donegal could have won.
That is the opinion of former Donegal star forward, Michael Hegarty. The Kilcar man feels that if Donegal had kicked on after Ryan McHugh’s goal early in the second half, the outcome could have been a lot different.
“The game went along predictable lines. Dublin were the favourites and played like favourites in the first half,” the former Donegal star told the Democrat.
Dublin led by five points, 0-9 to 0-4 at half-time and when they went seven up in the opening minutes of the second half Hegarty admits to being being worried.
But a Patrick McBrearty point followed by Ryan McHugh’s goal saw Donegal reduce the Dublin lead to three points, 0-11 to 1-5.
“We were back in the game after what was a great goal but unfortunately we did not kick on after the goal and put them on the back foot.
“The goal proved that if we ran at them they were vulnerable. But after the goal we seemed to sit back instead of going for it and allowed them settle and reorganise after the sending off of Connolly.
“With the exception of Ryan McHugh we did not seem to have the energy to run at them.
“In hindsight we probably paid the price for not giving some of the younger lads in the squad more game time earlier in the season.
“After the goal we needed fresh legs with experience to run at Dublin and put them on the back foot.
“Dublin are a good team but I do believe without Rory Carroll and Jack McCaffrey they are not as tight at the back as they have been over the last few seasons.
“They were also without James McCarthy on Saturday evening. They are three big players and without them I feel the are vulnerable in defence.
“Unfortunately, we did not put them under pressure and we could never break the three point margin. If we had, say, cut it to two, it would be interesting to see how they would have reacted.
“In fairness to our lads they battled to the end and we were still in the game until Paul Mannion opened us up for the goal to clinch the game.
“After Mannion’s goal, which was also a good goal, the chance was gone.
“We will never know how it would have worked out if we went for it after Ryan’s goal. But it could have been interesting.”
Despite the defeat, Michael Hegarty is still pretty optimistic about the future. He feels the nucleus of the team are still in their mid to late 20s and in their prime.
However he does believe that Donegal are going to have become more attack minded and work on the offensive side of their game.
“We have the defensive side of our game spot on. But if we are going to move on we are going to have to work on the attacking side of our game.
“Michael Murphy is a brilliant footballer, as we all know. But Michael’s game is suffering because of the system we use.
“If we are to get the best out of Michael and Patrick McBrearty and the other forwards we are going to have work on our forward play. We are going to have to get the ball forward much quicker than we have been doing.
“We are also going to have to freshen up the team too and give the likes of Ciaran Thompson and Stephen McBrearty from my own club a chance.
“There are other good young lads, too, from the minor team of two years ago and we also had good U-21s in the last few years. The future is bright.”