The Ulster Championship win over Derry was achieved with the minimum of fuss and Donegal’s stock has risen considerably as a result.
Not alone those in Ulster, but throughout the country are sitting up and taking stock of what Jim McGuinness and his team have achieved in such a short time.
The manner of the victory was most impressive with Donegal making light of the difficult wet conditions and their final tally of 2-13 could have been much greater but for an upright depriving Patrick McBrearty of a deserved goal in the final ten minutes.
The first thought on the homeward journey from MacCumhaill Park on Saturday evening was that every one of the selected 15 had performed to a very high level, and any day you can achieve that, you are almost guaranteed a result.
There have been a core group of players who always seem to bring their ‘A’ game when performing at championship level, but on Saturday evening it seemed as if Jim McGuinness had his side primed to perfection. We can only hope that he can keep them there.
The training camp away in Johnstown House the previous week seems to have been of great benefit and talking to former Donegal star Martin Carney prior to the game, he expressed the opinion that Donegal were a real serious team with a professional approach that was almost scary.
The commitment necessary to perform at this high level must be very difficult for the players involved. Trying to keep a job as well as finding time for family and friends and balancing that with the commitment required is very difficult.
That Jim McGuinness has managed to get the panel to achieve that is nothing short of miraculous. The solidity of the approach is shown in the way that they have performed in their games to date. When it mattered - in the final league game against Armagh - and in the two championship games, they have been outstanding.
The experience of playing in a league final and getting to an All-Ireland semi-final last year is now coming to fruition. Players are expressing themselves much better and the workload is being shared equally.
The return of Michael Murphy was always going to be a huge bonus and the Glenswilly man now is now the fulcrum of a much more functional attack.
The improvement in Patrick McBrearty this year underlines the work that Jim McGuinness has done with this squad. McBrearty was a huge talent when introduced as a minor, but even though he is still not 19, he has developed as a real team player and was Donegal’s best forward in our two championship games to date. He won the penalty for our goal in Cavan and was involved in setting up both goals on Saturday night. His pass to Colm McFadden for the second goal was perfectly timed.
The other notable improvement in the team has come with Frank McGlynn being released from the corner-back position to play as an attacking half-back. McGlynn played quite an amount of his underage football in the half-forward line and there is also the bonus that he is a hugely skillful player.
No doubt there will be tougher games ahead than the challenge which a poor Derry side put before them on Saturday evening. But it is also true that Donegal 2012 are much improved from Donegal 2011. There is more support for the player on the ball and the team are playing with greater pace - which reflects that they are in even better physical shape.
There was one downside to Saturday night, and one which was commented on by stalwart supporters prior to the game. This persistence with not naming the starting line-up until minutes before the throw-in just doesn’t make much sense. It’s not as though Derry (or any other opposition) are waiting for a surprise inclusion. It may be necessary for Donegal GAA officials to have a quiet word with the management on this. Patrons paying into the game deserve better. Enough said.
Donegal travel to Clones for the first time this year on Saturday week in a very good place. They meet the same opposition as last year - Tyrone. The two weeks of preparation should leave them well up for that contest. After Saturday evening, we will travel with increased confidence.