SPORTS COLUMN

Let's get behind Donegal on Saturday against Longford

with Sports Editor Peter Campbell

Let's get behind Donegal on Saturday against Longford

Let’s get behind Donegal

Was talking to Karl Lacey this week at a school function in Rockfield NS in Ballyshannon and I went home thinking how much our Donegal football heroes do as role models for our young people.

Lacey will forgive me for saying that he is now in the twilight of his career but he carries himself so well, articulate in answering the questions of children from five years to 12, with an ability to interact at their level.

He tells the sixth class that his toughest opponent on the football field was Alan Brogan while his role model growing up was Joyce McMullin. He went on to tell them that among his career choices at an early age was a bin man or an astronaut!

After soldiering with Donegal since 2004, he is quite content now to be a mentor for the young talent coming through. If he is able to impart just his tackling skills to the young generation, then Donegal are on a winner. There are many other skills which he has including discipline, but my one memory of Lacey over the years is his tackling - probably among the top three defenders over the last 10-12 years.

The young Donegal panellists could do worse than go to school on him.

On Saturday evening they get the chance to put the bad memories of their Clones clash with Tyrone behind them. Indeed, if they don’t then they will not be involved after Saturday. Longford don’t have Donegal’s talent, but they will come to Ballybofey with nothing to lose and with plenty of fire in their belly.

Donegal will have to match them, not just for skill levels, but for intensity. Down showed us on Saturday evening last that if you have that bit of ‘fight’ in you, then it gets you a long way down the road. They put Monaghan on the back foot from the start and that, allied to some great score-taking, got them the result. Monaghan can have few complaints; they missed four or five points at the very start and then couldn’t convert their chances at the end when it mattered.

For Saturday Donegal will probably make a few changes from the Tyrone game. I wouldn’t be surprised if Kieran Gillespie is given a starting jersey if his injury has fully cleared up. Word that Jason McGee was suffering from a virus in the lead up to the Tyrone game was probably a reason for him being called ashore, while Michael Langan again put his hand up and maybe he has done enough to earn a starting place.

Karl Lacey says Donegal will have to play it tight early on this Saturday and then push on. He has no doubt that Donegal are good enough to go further.

There is a path for Donegal back to Croke Park for the August Bank Holiday and a quarter-final clash with the Munster or Connacht champions, but it is one that requires a return to championship-type intensity. If we can get that, then anything can happen.

But for all Donegal supporters going to the game, remember these are just our friends and neighbours who are representing us, proud to be wearing the jersey. If things are not going right, then they will feel it most.

When you see these players turn out to represent themselves at school, youth or sports functions you see them in a completely different light. We should always keep that in mind when we want to be critical of their performance on the field.

Lions - just all hype

Like many others, I have been up early for the last two Saturday mornings - firstly to see the Irish rugby team play Japan and then the Lions taking on the All Blacks.

Ireland have shown up well and will go back to Japan for the World Cup in a good frame of mind.

The Lions, after a win over the Maori All Blacks on Saturday week last, came a cropper in the first Test against the mighty New Zealanders. After all the hype on Sky Sports, this was something of a one-sided affair. Forget the 30-15 scoreline, apart from a very good try finished by Sean O’Brien, there was a gulf between the sides.

Now they have to meet two more times and the All Blacks were just warming up last Saturday.

Have a feeling that it might be a good idea to sleep on this Saturday!