Roscommon in Dr Hyde Park is now a must-win game for Donegal

Roscommon in Dr Hyde Park is now a must-win game for Donegal

It is always disappointing when you lose and it was no different on Saturday night when Donegal went down to Dublin in Croke Park.

But it was probably asking a little too much without our key forward, Patrick McBrearty, to think we were going to beat Dublin.

Patrick is a savage loss. He averages six to seven points per game and with five points between the teams at the finish you don’t have to be a genius to do the mathematics.

Though I do believe we were a little flattered with a five point defeat. Dublin may not have been at their brilliant best but they always looked comfortable. The did open us up a number of times and it took a number of brilliant saves from Shaun Patton to limit them to two goals.

Shaun may have struggled with his short kickouts but he certainly made up for it with those saves. It was a real baptism of fire for Shaun in Croke Park and he will have learned a lot from the experience.

Donegal did not play well and never played anywhere like the football they had played in Ulster. In fairness, Dublin, the three in-a-row champions, were a big step up from Cavan, Derry, Down and Fermanagh.

Donegal did well early on and went toe to toe with the champions and were level with them after 15 minutes. The big turning point was just before half-time and before Niall Scully scored the first of his two goals when Jamie Brennan had a great chance for a goal even though the angle may have tight. But Jamie seemed to fall as he hit the ball and it skewed off his foot and was well wide.

The goal would have put us ahead but to make matters worse from the kickout Dublin scored at the other end when Niall Scully dodged a few tackles before beating Shaun Patton. This was a six point swing and instead of bagging the goal and taking a two point lead we were four down.

This was the first real big turning point and the second came when Scully netted goal number two early in the second half and it was followed by a Dean Rock point to open up an eight point lead.

In fairness we wiped the 1-1 out with four good points in-a-row to reduce the margin to four again. But that was as good as it got and Dublin held us at arm's length from then to the finish.

The players must take credit for battling to the finish in what was a lost cause from pretty early in the second half. It will go down more a good Donegal battling performance rather than a great performance playing champagne football. The game will have been a good learning curve for the younger lads and they will have benefited hugely from the experience of playing the All-Ireland Ireland champions in Croke Park.

Normally when you lose a big championship game in Croke Park, your summer is over. But that is not the case this year.

We still have two games and a lot of football to play starting with Roscommon next Saturday evening in Hyde Park in Roscommon and Tyrone, two weeks later, in Ballybofey.

The Roscommon game is now a huge game and a must-win game. Win in Roscommon and we are back in the race for a place in the semi-final going into the Tyrone game.

Roscommon suffered a heavy defeat at the hands of Tyrone on Saturday evening and may be seen as the weakest team in the group.

But they will be no pushover in Hyde Park. They will also be hurting from that defeat by Tyrone so we are going to have to play well. But we are at a higher level and it is a game we can win if we are in the right frame of mind.

Brian McEniff was in conversation with Tom Comack.