Declan Bonner did not show his full hand against Dublin in last Saturday evening’s All-Ireland Super 8 first round clash on the hallowed sod of Croke Park.
It is an interesting theory and one firmly held by former Donegal player and Naomh Columba clubman Padraig Carr.
The former Ulster Championship winner feels it was probably the right approach too given Donegal’s other games are against Roscommon, this Saturday evening in Dr Hyde Park, Roscommon and arch rivals Tyrone, two weeks later in Ballybofey. These are seen as two games Donegal can win.
By and large Padraig Carr believes the plan worked as Donegal got out of Dodge City against Dublin with a five point defeat.
“I think when you look at the team selected and the way it lined out I feel Declan wasn’t showing his full hand and we will see a different and more attacking Donegal on Saturday evening against Roscommon,” said Padraig.
“Donegal sat back and were more defensive against Dublin than they had been in any of the other championship games and you would have to say it worked.
“A five point defeat to the current Dublin outfit is pretty credible; the only pity is that we did not push up more in the closing minutes after cutting their lead to four points.
“I know we would be leaving ourselves open at the back but it would be interesting if we got in for a goal or knocked over a couple of quick points.
“I would have stuck Michael Murphy in at full-forward and see how it worked with the hope of scoring a goal or a few quick points. It would certainly put Dublin under pressure and make them think.”
But overall the former elusive corner-forward was impressed with Donegal and especially by the way they came back after Dublin had pulled away to lead by eight points early in the second half.
“We showed great character to cut the lead to four points with four good points in-a-row and maybe we should have took a risk and gone for it at that stage.”
The Naomh Columba man also felt the Donegal defence did well and a number of the All-Ireland champions’ big hitters were well held.
“Ciaran Kilkenny was held to a point by Eamonn Doherty while Con Callaghan and Paul Mannion did not score.
“Mannion was well marshalled by Eoghan Bán Gallagher but the downside to Eoghan Bán marking Mannion is it restricted Eoghan from
going forward which is a big part of his game and a huge part in Donegal’s success this year.
“Overall it was a good performance when you consider Donegal were without their top forward Patrick McBrearty. Patrick is a huge loss and Ryan McHugh really misses him.
“They always combined well on the right wing and Ryan always had an outlet to slip the ball out to Patrick and then take the return. It worked really well and opened up defences.
“The fact that Patrick is not there means there is extra attention on him (Ryan) now as we saw on Saturday evening against the Dubs and has left a big gap in the attack. That gap wasn’t filled on Saturday night. Odhran MacNiallais started at corner-forward but moved out to the middle of the field.
“Ryan McHugh, he still managed to kick two great points and he got into good positions a number of times. There was one in the second half when he was in for a goal but was not seen by Ciaran Thompson.
“He was in for an almost certain goal if he had been picked out and as we know no man has scored more goals against Dublin in the championship than Ryan.”
Roscommon, Donegal’s opponents on Saturday, evening suffered a heavy 18 point defeat at the hands of Tyrone, also last Saturday evening in Croke Park.
This was a demoralising defeat for the Connacht runners-up following their 2-22 to 2-19 win over Armagh, the week before in the All-Ireland Qualifier in O’Moore Park, Portlaoise.
“Roscommon will not be easy. They will be hurt after last weekend’s heavy defeat by Tyrone and they will be out to restore pride.
“They are a better team than they showed against Tyrone and they will be out to prove that and of course they are at home.
“We played them in Hyde Park just over a year ago in the league and we were lucky to come away with a win.
“They have very good forwards in the Murtaghs and the Smiths. Enda Smith is their big man and when he plays well Roscommon play well.
“He is one man we will have to mark very closely and if you can limit his influence you will be well on your way to winning.”
Padraig expects Donegal to be more attack minded against Roscommon and really go for the win.
“Donegal have to go for it because nothing short of a win will do. I would like to see Michael Murphy start in at full-forward and knock in a few quick balls in on top of him.
“I think it is important to get off to a good start on Saturday evening because Roscommon will be vulnerable early on.
“A couple of quick scores and maybe even a goal or two would really knock them back.”
Padraig would also like to see Odhran MacNiallais rotated with Michael Murphy and be given a chance at full-forward.
“Odhran is a good ball winner and is very accurate and he could pose a threat at full-forward. I would like to see him rotate with Michael Murphy. In the continued absence of Patrick McBrearty, it is an option.”
Padraig would also start Neil McGee, if he is fit, against Roscommon and he would like to see Hugh McFadden play more in the middle of the field and driving forward rather than the sweeper role he has played in recent weeks.
Padraig expects Roscommon to be a tricky enough assignment and they have the forwards and the potential to test Donegal.
But he also feels Donegal are a better balanced side and have more than enough quality and experience to see off Roscommon and set up a possible All-Ireland semi-final decider with Tyrone in Ballybofey two weeks later.