Donegal manager, Rory Gallagher, had no excuses when he faced the press in Croke Park after Saturday’s quarter-final defeat to Mayo.
Gallagher looked drained after Donegal had come up short in their sixth championship match against a fresher Mayo side.
He felt the second Mayo goal was the real difference between the sides.
“Very disappointing. We came down and we felt it would be nip and tuck.
“And that’s probably how it was panning out coming up to half-time. But the two goals were big game changers, probably more so the second one.
“It was maybe a small bit fortunate but it left us with too much to do and Mayo ran out comfortable winners,” was how Donegal manager Rory Gallagher summed up the game in the aftermath of the quarter-final defeat in Croke Park.
Donegal were just a point adrift with the clock ticking well into added time at the end of the first half when Aidan O’Shea struck for Mayo’s first goal.
That disappointment was written all over the Donegal manager’s face. When asked if the week turnaround was a factor in the defeat, Gallagher was unwilling to make excuses. He felt that after 34 minutes Donegal were in the contest and then came the goals which made it so difficult.
But he also admitted that having lost out in the Ulster final, it was always going to be a difficult proposition for Donegal to reach the last four.
“It would have been more ideal to go through the front door; there’s no doubt about it. It would have given us space. But we didn’t put the chances away against Monaghan (in the Ulster final) and that door was closed for us,” said Gallagher.
The manager said he was happy with the first half display. “To be fair, Mayo were probably marginally the better team in the first half, but after the second goal it appeared that it was a bridge too far for us,” said Gallagher.
“We kept trying but we needed a goal to kick us into life. In reality the second Mayo goal was the game changer,” said Gallagher, who felt that Mayo were smart in the second half, dropping off and making it difficult. “We were really clutching at straws at that stage.”
Asked how good are Mayo, Gallagher said he wasn’t too sure. “They are a very good side, but we knew that. They have an awful lot going for them. The dimension of Aidan (O’Shea) at full-forward clearly makes them different. Would any other of the Mayo inside forwards have scored that goal?” asked Gallagher.
Asked about the future of the Donegal side and whether there would now be a transition period using successful minor teams, Gallagher was noncommittal: “I haven’t overly thought about it. We all know that we have all been on the road a long time. The boys have been on the road a long time, a number of them. We came back with a very clear intention this year, which was to get to an All-Ireland final.
“When you’ve had the success we have had in the last number of years, winning one and getting back to the final, that is ultimately what we would have been interested in,” said Gallagher, who felt it would be up to the players themselves what decision they would make about their futures.
It has been a really tough finish for Gallagher in his first year in charge. Having to play six really tough championship games compared to Mayo’s three was the ultimate difference between the sides at the finish.
Donegal supporters will hope the Belleek native will remain in place next year and hopefully he will be dealt a much fairer hand!