SPORTS COLUMN

Faith in Donegal's youth must stay strong

THE SPORTING DIARY with Sports Ed Peter Campbell

Faith in Donegal's youth must stay strong

Faith in Donegal’s youth must stay strong

The young footballers of Donegal must not be thrown to the wolves after Sunday’s very disappointing outing against Tyrone in Clones.

For them, the disappointment will be the greatest and I’m hoping this week that the older brigade and management will give them the support they need.

Defeats are always hard to take, but they have just over a week more to go until they can put the record straight.

It must be stressed that those making their championship debut this year were not alone in finding the going difficult against Tyrone. Many of the established players (as Jim McGuinness pointed out in his Irish Times column) also struggled badly.

Tyrone had Donegal’s number throughout the contest. But they must have been surprised at how easy it was to prise open the Donegal defence. Even after getting a chance to regroup at half-time, Tiernan McCann could have had time to stop and light up a cigar as he waltzed through for the Tyrone goal.

Where was the Donegal Ulster championship intensity? Tyrone picked up one card (black for Mark Bradley) in the entire game. There was something different about them. They were really ready for this game and played it very smart. The player on the ball always seemed to have options but they had a controlled intensity that was impressive.

Donegal, on the other hand, didn’t seem to be ready for what they were confronted with. They got the ball into Patrick McBrearty a few times early on but then it was like wild animals being caught in a net trap, as time after time they were dispossessed or turned over.

However, the biggest surprise was the gaps that they left for Tyrone when those turnovers took place. No wonder Neil McGee and Frank McGlynn were over at the sideline having a discussion with Rory Gallagher at one stage in the first half.

It was not Donegal as we have known them for the last six or seven years.

No one knows what goes on in training, but I was surprised that Caolan Ward has gone from being a starter against Antrim (and performing reasonably well) to being an unused substitute on Sunday.

Trying to figure out what went wrong is like clutching at straws. It is never one particular issue, and as always, the difference between winning and losing can be very little.

Donegal have to put it right, and quick, and it has to start in defence. Scoring 1-12 would have been enough to win most clashes with Tyrone in recent years, but if you are conceding 1-21, you will not win many matches.

If they can solve the defensive problem, then they have a perfect chance to get back on the horse against Longford on Saturday week.

If we can get over Longford, and are successful in Round 3, then we would meet the defeated finalists of either Connacht or Munster. After that we would be back in Croke Park for a quarter-final. It is not impossible.

But, no matter what happens, the young footballers must be nurtured. They are not just for 2017, they are the future of Donegal football.

Rally special

I’m not an ardent rally enthusiast, and I would probably have great difficulty enduring some of the loutish behaviour that is dragging the sport down, but the sport itself was the winner after last weekend’s Joule Donegal International Rally.

The fact that it was two Donegal men battling it out from start to finish, made it a spectacle that made even the occasional rally supporter sit up and take notice. In the end Manus Kelly prevailed after a titanic battle with his namesake, Donagh. The Frosses man won 10 of the 20 stages, but had to withdraw on the penultimate stage. It was desperately disappointing, but he was part of a great sporting occasion.

It's hats off to Manus Kelly for biding his time and keeping in touch when Donagh was steaming ahead on the opening day. And when he got his chance, he took it.

It was a good weekend (from the sporting perspective) for the Donegal International Rally.

Harps on TV

Finn Harps will get a rare outing on TV this Friday night when they visit Dundalk to play the reigning SSE Airtricity Premier League champions.

The game is live on eir Sport

Although they lost by the only goal to Shamrock Rovers on Friday night last, Harps have become a competitive outfit.

They will be up against it on Friday night but hopefully they put their best foot (and head, even if it is bandaged) forward for the TV cameras.