Peter Campbell email@example.com @dgldemocrat
Everyone agrees that there will be tougher games ahead. Donegal had it easier than expected in MacCumhaill Park on Sunday.
But it was significant and honest of Rory Gallagher to say to the media afterwards “we expected to win and we did.”
It’s not often that a manager comes out after any game and makes such a statement, but it was refreshing. Looking at the body language of some Donegal players throughout the first half, it was obvious that the players also ‘expected to win’.
It took them a while to get going and maybe it would have been better for Donegal if Antrim had been able to get at least one of their two good goal chances they created. As it was once Donegal got their opening goal, the Antrim challenge faded.
The positives for Donegal were that so many players got their first outing in the Ulster Championship, albeit not a full-blooded affair. Of the new recruits Ciaran Thompson, Eoghan Bán Gallagher, Jamie Brennan, Jason McGee, Caolan Ward and Michael Langan (in that order) will be most happy with their first big day. The Gaoth Dobhair pair, Cian Mulligan and Michael Carroll, will have learned an awful lot about championship football. Mulligan has only had a handful of senior games and will be better for the outing. He ran into trouble on a few occasions and that will be an even bigger problem when up against tougher defences.
Michael Carroll is still only 19 and played a significant part in the opening decisive goal. He will have to contribute more over the full 70 minutes.
Of the others Jamie Brennan took his chance when it came and then hit a sublime point. He did pick up an injury but will be more than happy with his outing. Ciaran Thompson continues to look a class act, and hopefully his injury will clear up. It was a good decision to take him off when the game was won, a lesson learned after the Jason McGee shoulder injury in Cavan in the league.
Caolan Ward and Jason McGee really grew into the game. Both are athletic and cover an awful lot of ground, which will be of benefit in tougher games. Michael Langan had only 10 minutes action but hit two great points to underline how far he has come in a short space of time.
It was good to see Patrick McBrearty contribute so much when he came on. It was a surprise to most that the Kilcar man did not start, but he showed the right attitude when coming on and he made a strong case to be included for the semi-final.
Hopefully, Kieran Gillespie will be in the mix also when it comes to the Ulster semi-final, as he has the physique to cover a number of positions in defence, should they arise for any reason.
Rory Gallagher and his backroom team will have a strong hand when it comes to selection for that game . . . and just as important, will have a strong bench to call on.
As for negatives from the game, the fact that Donegal were opened up so easily for the goal chances will be a concern. There will be a need to give some cover to the full-back line no matter who they meet in that game.
But, barring any major injuries in the next few weeks, they should be in with a great chance of making it to their seventh Ulster final in-a-row.
Roll on 18th June.