Donegal v Antrim: Just not good enough
Walking from MacCumhaill Park on Sunday evening in the company of All-Ireland winner, Barry Cunningham, put something in my mind. The scoreline on Sunday against Antrim was 3-19 to 1-9 - a winning margin of 16 points.
Back in the semi-final of 1992, Donegal overcame Fermanagh in Healy Park, Omagh by 2-17 to 0-7 - a margin of 16 points.
Yet the headline on the back page of the Donegal Democrat was “Just not good enough”. When I walked into the Grand Hotel in Malahide that famous September evening in 1992, one of the first players I met was Barry Cunningham and he shook his head and said “Just not good enough”!
It was a light hearted moment, but one that I will never forget.
Imagine if we ran the same headline this week after Donegal’s win over Antrim. There would be uproar.
But back in 1992, there wasn’t any reaction. It was regarded as fair comment and maybe managers and players had thicker skins back then.
Indeed, there were stories that there was a famous meeting among the players in the Healy Park dressing rooms after that game when things were thrashed out and it was to pay huge dividends.
There is a well worn cliche rolled out after many games which goes along the lines - ‘that performance will not be good enough the next day’.
After Donegal’s win over Antrim on Sunday, I think I’ve heard that comment recorded, and it is very true. Donegal did all they had to do, but in truth, the Antrim challenge collapsed in the second half.
The similarities between Sunday’s game and the game against Fermanagh in 1992 are stark. Fermanagh gave Donegal all they wanted for the first half of that game, but in the end Donegal ran out easy winners.
This was obviously in the mind of Donegal captain, Michael Murphy, as he raced for the tunnel at half-time on Sunday. Donegal were kept in the dressing room for a very long time and, no doubt, Murphy and others laid it on the line that the first half performance was not good enough. We are extremely lucky to have a leader like him.
Had Antrim taken their two goal chances on Sunday last then Donegal would have been tested a little more. As it was they have just got a good workout.
It will be a different story on Sunday, 18th June.
The defeat of the minors was a big disappointment although you couldn’t argue that Antrim were the better team. Donegal, apart from a handful of players, were playing second fiddle. Peadar Mogan did all he could (and it was almost enough). His goal was very lucky, but he made a fantastic run to create the second goal; Aaron Doherty also showed, in patches, his class, but he missed a few frees, albeit from distance, while Luke Gavigan did a very good marking job on Antrim dangerman Liam Quinn. However, a lot of damage was done before the change was made.
When you look back on the season questions will remain about how the county handled its underage teams. Our two best teams - U-17 and U-21 - could claim that they were not given a fair playing field with some justification.
Hopefully, we can learn for the future.
One of my highlights from Sunday last was reading the programme piece ‘One Minute with Michael Murphy’.
There were some classics including - Best Player you have played with? Gerard McGrenra.
Best Advice ever received? Kick the High Ball in Low.
Young Player within your club to look out for? Neil Gallagher
Thankfully, when he puts on a Donegal jersey he becomes a serious operator!
Bin the Black Card
After watching Kieran Hughes banished after eight minutes in Clones on Saturday evening with a black card for a harmless tangle with a Fermanagh player I’m more convinced than ever that the black card is doing more damage than good.
According to the book, the referee was correct, but if a player’s game is to be ended for what happened in Clones, then the legislators need to have a good look at themselves.
To rub salt in the wounds, two Monaghan players almost took the head of Fermanagh players in the minutes that followed and didn’t receive any card, while the Fermanagh ‘keeper deliberately tripped a Monaghan player in the second half and the referee waved play on.
We must end this black card nonsense now.