Karl Lacey pictured at Rockfield NS with girls team who won Co. title and teacher Benny Byrne
Peter Campbell sport@donegaldemocratlcom @dgldemocrat
Donegal’s most decorated footballer, Karl Lacey, says the entire panel are going to have to react to the recent heavy defeat against Tyrone when they take the field against Longford in the Qualifiers in MacCumhaill Park on Saturday evening (5.00 p.m.).
And he feels it is especially important for the younger players to pick it up and go again.
"Their heads were down after the game,” Lacey said.
“You could see it was a shock to the system. It was not expected, by everybody. This week we have re-gathered our thoughts; we spoke a lot between ourselves as players, as management. We trained very well this week and we have another week to Longford on Saturday.
"And once we get on to that pitch, there will be a wee bit of hurt showing, and we'll get stuck into Longford, which is not going to be easy. But hopefully, come 7 o'clock on Saturday evening we will be into the draw for the next round of the Qualifiers, and the only way is up from there.”
The Four Masters man is around long enough to know that there will be days like Clones and Tyrone.
"There have been plenty of these weeks; not only defeats but heavy defeats as well. I think when I sat down with Rory at the start of the year I suppose one of my roles was to show those leadership skills and experience around the dressing room,” he said.
"That's when that experience has to show now, this week. It was a big shock to the system. There were a lot of young men on that pitch against Tyrone and you can talk all you want about National League and beating Tyrone in Ballybofey on that wet Saturday night, but it's different when you get into Clones and it's Ulster championship football.
“That's the reality of it. It's a learning process for them guys and the more men they have around like myself and Neil McGee and Frank (McGlynn); guys who have been through them heavy defeats before to keep the shoulder to the wheel and driving on and keep looking at the positives.”
Getting to play at home is a big positive for Lacey: "It is vital to get a home draw. The Qualifiers can throw up some unusual draws. It's nice during the league to travel to those places, Castlebar or Kerry, but come the Qualifiers you don't want to be going to those places and that can be daunting.
“Thankfully we got the home draw and we're in Ballybofey again where we have a good record. It was probably something we needed after Tyrone to get our heads right again.
"It will not be easy. We have seen what Longford can do and what they did in the Qualifiers last year (beating Monaghan and Cavan). We're aware of that but a lot is going to be down to our own individual performances and our team performance.
"What we showed against Tyrone in the Ulster semi-final isn't what we have and we have to prove to ourselves alone that there is a lot more to put on offer.”
Asked about the lack of intensity against Tyrone, he agreed but felt it was difficult when the game was going away from them.
"A lot of that was down to us having to chase the game. Fifteen or 20 minutes into the game we were in a good position; we were cutting holes in that Tyrone defence. Eoin McHugh got through but unfortunately was off target. If that went in it could have been a different story. They got a couple of points on the trot and from there it felt as if we were chasing the game.
"Once you’re chasing the game it is very hard to bring that intensity to it.
"We have to learn from it and we will learn from it. We don't want to be in that position again where we are chasing the game. We need to keep things tight and move forward.”
The four-times All-Star has experienced what the younger players are going through after the defeat to Tyrone and he knows it can be difficult for them.
"Of course it is. We were very positive after the league and the young fellas felt it went very well for them individually. They had a very good Ulster U-21 campaign and then they went into the All-Ireland semi-final on a high and were beat by Dublin.
"They were on a high all summer, defeating Antrim and everything was good and then they were in an Ulster semi-final against a Tyrone team who showed a massive amount of hunger and they hit you with that amount of intensity. It was a real shock to the system.
"But we have regrouped this week. We regrouped the next evening and you can see that the guys' heads have lifted again. Hopefully, we get over the line on Saturday and the hurt will be gone and the heads will be high again and we can have an exciting summer ahead," said Lacey.