Donegal need to get result to keep semi-final hopes on track

Peter Campbell looks ahead to Donegal's second game in 'Super 8s' and the great need to get a result against Roscommon

Donegal need to get result to keep semi-final hopes on track

It all comes down to Saturday. The end of year report card for Donegal can be written on Saturday evening or the season can be extended for a mouthwatering tilt with Tyrone on August 5th.

Itmight sound ominous, but that's about the long and the short of it.

But it was never really going to be any different. If Donegal wish to advance in the Super 8s to a semi-final slot, it was a good bet that they were always going to have to defeat Roscommon.

The margin of victory by Tyrone over Roscommon (18 pts) has put a different slant on the remaining games, with Tyrone in the bucket seat if it comes to score difference.

Roscommon capitulated in front of the Tyrone avalanche on Saturday in Croke Park, but they will be a different prospect on Saturday next after their pride has been dented.

At home in Dr. Hyde Park they will be all out to restore the pride that made them Connacht champions just a year ago.

They will look at what Galway did to Kerry on Sunday last and feel that they under performed in Croke Park last weekend.

Manager, Kevin McStay, wasn't making any excuses and felt his side were not at the races.

"There isn’t a whole lot of positives out of our performance, the team knows that, we all know that we’ve had too many of these trimmings in Croke Park the last few years.

"We play for pride next week and we have to turn it around and I have every expectation that we will,” said McStay, which should be a real warning for Donegal.

"We made a couple of massive turnovers that we were punished for," said McStay.

"Then the gap that we were hoping Tyrone wouldn’t get, that we were planning not to give them, all of a sudden they had it and they are so hard to play against once that gap opens up but fair play to them, their athleticism, their conditioning, it’s way ahead of ours and we couldn’t live with it,” he said.

But with a week to work with the players and a home venue, McStay knows that, just like Donegal, their season hinges on Saturday's game.

However, their players must also have doubts whether their final game away to Dublin will have any relevance, even if they win on Saturday.

Donegal have plenty to work on ahead of the game and manager, Declan Bonner, was very forthright in that regard when speaking after the game on Saturday night.

“Saturday night’s match is a huge match for us now and it is one we have to win.

“We have a job to do. We have to go to Hyde Park and get a result.”

Saturday's game will b e only the second ever championship meeting between Donegal and Roscommon. The other meeting was in the Qualifiers in 2008 which Donegal won comfortably by 3-11 to 1-9 in MacCumhaill Park, Ballybofey.

Neil McGee, Frank McGlynn and Michael Murphy are three Donegal survivors from that contest, which was the final year of the Brian McIver era.

Cathal Cregg was a starter for Roscommon that day but got a straight red card before half-time. Current captain Conor Devaney was a second half substitute for the Rossies.

It is difficult to see Declan Bonner making too many changes ahead of Saturday's game. Much will depend on the fitness of Paddy McGrath and hopefully he will be ready to go as he looked at his sharpest this year in the first half in Croke Park.

The old chestnut about where to play Michael Murphy was raised again on the Sunday Game on RTE on Sunday night.

Thankfully, Sean Cavanagh, was there to paint the true picture. Cavanagh may not be a great lover of Donegal, but he understands the Murphy situation. While it would be lovely to have the Glenswilly man operating on the edge of the square, it would diminish the overall Donegal threat. Maybe we should get him in there for a couple of five minute periods in games, but overall his ability to control the tempo of the game is best utilised when he is at the centre of the action.

We will need that influence more than ever on Saturday next.

We can also expect a greater return from a good number of the panel than we got last Saturday, and that should happen as Roscommon do not have the same physical presence that Dublin had.

Neil McGee will equal the Donegal championship appearance record on Saturday next when he lines out or comes on against Roscommon. He will be equalling the record of 65 held by Christy Toye and Karl Lacey.

Michael Langan did very well when in possession on Saturday and we need to get the St. Michael's man on the ball more this weekend.

The same is true of Jamie Brennan, who looked really up for the game last week. That some things didn't go for him is not important. Remember, Patrick McBrearty found it difficult for a time in Croke Park, but you would have no worries about him now.

It is all a learning curve, especially when playing in Croke Park.

Saturday next, in a lot of ways, is different. This is a championship knock-out match in all but name.

Both sides know that. For Donegal, all the good work done over four games in the Ulster Championship must be put on the back burner. They need to get a top class performance and getting over the line is all that matters.

A one point win will keep them alive and after that anything can happen on Sunday, August 5th.