Brendan Devenney tipping Donegal for All-Ireland glory

Brendan Devenney tipping Donegal for All-Ireland glory
There is nothing quite like a confident, eloquent and sunny soul.

There is nothing quite like a confident, eloquent and sunny soul.

So when the iconic Brendan Devenney tells you that Donegal will not only beat Armagh, but are also capable of winning an All-Ireland title, then it is really time to take notice.

In an era of controlled and rehearsed sound bytes such candour is rare, but welcome, as most pundits tend to sing safely.

But Devenney is one of the true maverick spirits who played with passion, flair and explosive pace.

He had all the power of a raging bull, and his route-one solo runs remain the stuff of legend.

The ex-county and St Eunan’s great once kicked a staggering 14 points in a Donegal county final, but like his colleagues he supped sorrow at the hands of the Orange nemesis in 1999, 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2006.

Those were the days when Donegal went out and tried to play like Brazil, but had no detailed defensive plan, and often crumpled before Joe Kernan’s grizzled legionnaires led by a great gladiator called Kieran McGeeney.

That team pumped iron for Ireland and wore skintight jersies that accentuated those bulging biceps.

And they had all the swagger of the playground bully who stared cold and walked tall.

Pragmatism had replaced poetry and winning ugly became fashionable as Joe Kernan set up the Orange blanket and Tyrone made some nifty variations on a theme and took three All-Irelands.

But when asked about his uber optimism about his county’s chances, Devenney explains as patiently as any teacher to an enquiring pupil.

“The current Armagh side is very much a work in progress.

“They are playing to a particular system and it is working for them.

“But they could not function without this defensive system.

“And unlike Kerry or Dublin, they do not have the players to play any more creatively although you could say that most of the other counties do not have players like Kerry and Dublin,” he said.

“Armagh are currently on a roll and they have exceeded all expectations and were well worth their wins over Tyrone, Roscommon and Meath.

“But Donegal will be a much different proposition than Meath.

“Armagh does not have enough forwards capable of breaking down Donegal’s defensive shield.

“If you look at the Ulster final where one of Ireland’s top forwards Conor McManus was completely smothered up.

“Kieran Hughes was bearing down on goal when he was suddenly surrounded by three Donegal men.

“You would almost feel sorry those guys,” he added.

Brendan added, “The system will always prevail”.

And he is aware of some “dangerous talk” in Donegal about an All-Ireland semi-final date with the Dubs

But the ex-St Eunan’s star is adamant that Tir Conaill and Jim McGuinness have the necessary nous to prevail against the Orchard Boys.

“Armagh will be very defensive but they have met nothing quite like Donegal just yet.

“It could be a learning curve for them.

“Donegal’s defensive shield is quite awesome and no forward in any team will relish trying to get past their 45 metre line.

“And I include the Dublin team in that as well if Donegal advance.

“I have no doubt that Donegal are capable of winning the All-Ireland title.

“There is no team out there that will want to play us and that also includes the Dubs.

“And it will be very difficult for any team to break through our 45.

“Armagh will need to score goals to beat us and they don’t have the same amount of finishers that they had in the past to achieve that goal.

“And Dublin would not want to play us either.

“Ok they might open us up a little but if their top six can’t break us down I can’t see their subs making much difference.

“And Dublin are also leaking a lot of goals.

“They will be apprehensive about playing us”, he added.

“It could be two defences colliding but it will be decided up front.

And Brendan believes that Tir Chonaill are no longer depending heavily on Michael Murphy and Colm McFadden for the bulk of their scores up front.

“Odhran MacNiallais, Ryan McHugh, Patrick McBrearty and Martin McElhinney are all coming good and this is getting to be an even better balanced team.

“Michael Murphy is showing great leadership in a variety of roles and he is of course a match-winner but it is good that we are not depending on one or two players”, he said.

And when asked about his memories of the glowering but great Armagh side of 1999, 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2006 his succinct reply is “not good”.

“I first came up against them in 1999 when we drew the first match in Ballybofey and they really tanked us in the replay.

“Michael Hegarty kicked a great point for us in the drawn match and it was his debut.

“But they were just unbeatable in the replay and their record in replays was just incredible.

“The nearest we came to beat them was in the Ulster final of 2002 under Mickey Moran.

“Our coach John Morrison had us well tutored to move the ball quickly around the blanket defence.

“We played very well and deserved to win.

“A lot of people say that we could have won the following year in 2003 but for the sending off of Raymond Sweeney.

“But that is just people clutching at straws.

“We did not outplay them that day and it was a similar story in 2004 and 2006.

“And we did not deserve to beat them in 2007 in Ballybofey.

“They were a truly exceptional team and Kieran McGeeney is the link with the current squad.And they will just not have enough in the locker for a Donegal team that is capable of regaining the All-Ireland title.”

Ticofaidh ar Sam..according to one of the county’s true legends.

And it is indeed hard to beat a sunny spirit and confident soul!