Sunday will be different ball game - McGuinness

Donegal and Cavan on Sunday in the Ulster championship is going to be a completely different game to the Donegal and Antrim preliminary round game.

That is the view of Donegal manager Jim McGuinness. McGuinness shipped a fair deal of criticism in the aftermath of last month’s encounter with the Saffrons for the tactics he employed with the national media in particular having a field day.

But Sunday’s game is going to be a different game altogether as he argues that Cavan play a completely different brand of football to Antrim and he expects them to be much more attack minded than the Saffrons and to play a more direct style.

“Cavan will be completely different to Antrim. And as I consequence we will also play a different style and will employ a completely different game plan than we did the last day against Antrim,” McGuinness told the Democrat.

“Antrim came to Ballybofey and were ultra defensive and double marked Colm McFadden and Michael Murphy, which meant that when we went long early on their sweepers gobbled up possession. This in turn forced us to adopt a different approach.

“It may not have been pretty or may not have pleased the supporters but the important thing is that we got the result. And given our record in Ballybofey in the previous three years that was the most important thing. If the same happens on Sunday - which I think won’t - we will still be happy as long as we get the same result because after all that is what it is all about.

“We received a fair bit of criticism for the way we played against Antrim, which I personally think was way over the top. As anyone that followed us all year would have known we did not play a similar style two games in-a-row.

“We went to Derry and scored 2-18, and kicked 1-17 against Antrim and 16 points against Meath and were ultra offensive in those games and certainly could not be accused of being over defensive in those games.

“We knew Antrim were going to be defensive and we had to deal with that and as I said earlier we did that and got the result. But that game is behind us and Cavan provide a new challenge and it will be a completely different game.

“They play a different brand of football and we will have to adopt accordingly as we do with every team we play and Cavan will be no different. Every team we play we look at their threats and potential threats and plan accordingly, but 60 to 70% of our concentration will be on our own game and that is how we have prepared for next Sunday’s game.”

With exams over and the bulk of the players back in the county and most of the niggly injuries having cleared up, the manager also feels that Donegal are in a much better place and better prepared for Cavan than they were for Antrim.

“After the League final we gave the players a week off which effectively gave us two weeks to get ready for Antrim. It also meant that basically we relied on the fitness built up in the league to get us over the Antrim hurdle and it was only since that game that we have got down to proper championship training.

“A number of lads are back from injury and all the exams are over and we have got through some very good work in recent weeks and are in much better shape now that we were for the Antrim game.”

What’s more the manager believes they need to be as Cavan, in Kingspan Breffni Park, will provide them with a much sterner football test than Antrim did in Ballybofey.

Jim McGuinness, for one, is not reading too much into their mid-table Division Three position at the end of the league.

“They will be much stronger on Sunday than they were for most of the league. They did not use any of the U-21s until the very end of the league and I expect four or five of them to be in the team on Sunday. Cavan are a pretty decent side. They have last year’s U-21 David Gibney in midfield, a player I rate to be one of the best young midfielders in the country. They also have Seanie Johnston, Michael Lyng, Gareth Smyth and Cian Mackey in the forwards, all quality players.

“Also they are at home and I have found down the years all Cavan teams play with an awful lot of confidence in Breffni Park, and with the crowd behind them and that famous Breffni roar they can be difficult opposition.”

So what is it going to take?

“It is important that we stamp our authority on the game from very early and don’t let them get a platform and get the crowd behind them. It is important that we get off to a good start and silence the crowd and put them under pressure and on the back foot. But it is certainly not going to be easy and we are expecting nothing but a tough hard fight and hopefully we will come out on the right side of the result.”

Talk of a Donegal versus Tyrone Ulster semi-final, which is pretty prevalent inside and outside the county, does not wash with the manager; neither does it worry him as he has no fears whatsoever that suck talk will get through to his players.

“I honestly don’t see it as a problem. People and pundits can say what they like. But any game we have played this year we have looked at that game on its own merits. We approach each game on an individual basis. We look at each oppositions strengths and most of all where we can improve on our own game from our last outing and regardless whether it is a Division One or a Division Four team our approach is always the same. We give them all the same respect and it is the same process for each game and whether it is Cork, Kerry, Dublin, Cavan or Carlow; our approach is all the same and that is not going to change on Sunday, because it is Cavan.