This was a statement of intent. For those hardened Donegal supporters who made the long journey to Portlaosie last Sunday, they would have witnessed first hand Donegal’s dominance in this first game of our national league campaign.
One could argue that Laois did not offer much resistance. How could they when Donegal is in this type of form. Historically, Laois have always been a difficult team to cope with for most counties especially in their own back yard. It was a typical February day with a biting wind howling around O’Moore Park. It was so encouraging to see so many Donegal supporters interspersed with the local Laois attendance. They certainly were not disappointed.
Donegal’s performance surely warmed their hearts on a bleak Sunday afternoon far from home. I momentarily tuned into the local radio station during the game where the commentator said that “Donegal were a joy to watch”. Knowing the hard work put in by the Donegal players in recent weeks, it was pleasing to see the rewards of such endeavours come to fruition.
On the day, we had some notable absentees due to injury. When these lads recover the competition for places will be healthy. I am always reluctant to mention individuals but, I feel that Christy Toye from the St.Michael’s club deserves special praise. He had an outstanding game. Christy spent all of last season with illness and then injury. His comeback is remarkable given what he endured. His absence last season was a major blow for Donegal. Six substitutions were used in all and each one of them contributed greatly to the outcome.
For Jim McGuinness and his management team, this will be encouraging. We have strength in depth which is vital to success especially come championship when the serious football commences. It is back to business this weekend when Donegal travel to Galway. Meath, who lost to Kildare recently in the O’Byrne Cup final, overcame the Tribesmen last Sunday. Galway will not relish facing Donegal after this defeat. Another loss for them will sound alarm bells.
We cannot presume that Galway will be easy opponents. Far from it. The prospect of relegation will serve to reinvigorate them. Mayo gave Galway a right old rogering in the Connaught championship last summer.
When the league fixtures were announced, the Galway game in Salthill stood out not for the team but, for the supporters. Galway is a cosmopolitan city full of culchies like us. I overspent my student days there as many students do. It’s a warm city, full of vibrancy and energy. It’s a hard place to leave and detach oneself from. As long as we leave Galway with a brace of points, I will be content.
Last Saturday evening news emerged that Kerry footballer Paul Galvin announced his retirement from Gaelic football. Galvin will be remembered as one of the greatest players of the modern era and his legacy will be talked about for many years to come. He achieved everything that could be achieved in the game and his awards include 7 Munster titles, 4 All-Ireland titles, 3 National Football league titles and 3 All Star awards.
Most GAA followers will remember him for eccentricity too. His involvement in the fashion world raised eyebrows, a trend which he continues today contributing a weekly fashion column to The Irish Independent. On the field he was temperamental where manners often forsook him. We all remember him slapping the notebook out of referee Paddy Russell’s hands as he was being booked in the Munster semi final against Clare in 2008.
When Kerry played Cork, defender Noel O’Leary was tasked almost always with marking Galvin. They went at each other as two birds would in a cock fight.
Galvin was indeed a character which every sport needs. Most of all, Paul Galvin is a gifted, clever and an exceptional footballer. I doubt if we have heard the last of him. . The appeal of championship football on long warm summer Sundays may prove too difficult to resist. I have been there.
The next two or three years will be difficult for him. For every inter county player, that time to leave will arrive eventually. Obviously, Galvin feels now is the time. If it is, then we must applaud him for his contribution to Gaelic football down the years and thank him for the entertainment he provided on and off the field.