Declan Bonner’s first job on Monday morning in his review of Donegal’s Super 8s win over Meath should have been to identify how Donegal allowed Meath back into the game after half-time.
That is the opinion of former Donegal player Padraig Carr from Carrick and now an avid follower of the green and gold jersey.
The ex-county man wants to know how Donegal allowed a five point lead slip in a ten minute spell in the third quarter to find themselves a point down going into the final quarter.
Padraig Carr played with Donegal in the 1980s winning an Ulster senior medal in 1983 and is also a senior championship winner with Naomh Columba.
Donegal led Meath by four points at half-time, 1-9 to 0-8, and after a shaky enough start had taken a firm grip on the game after Patrick McBrearty’s 25th minute goal.
And they had moved to five up nine minutes into new half courtesy of two McBrearty strikes in response to one from James McEntee.
But Meath, in a golden nine minute spell, hit a goal and three points to go one up,1-12 to 1-11, with a little over a quarter hour remaining. The Royals also had a goal disallowed in this period for a square ball infringement.
“Declan and his management team need to analyse that ten minunute period after half-time when we seemed to go to sleep and Meath scored a goal and three points without reply to take the lead,” said Padraig.
“The response on Sunday was positive and very encouraging but against stronger opposition say like Dublin, Kerry, Mayo or Tyrone it might not be as easy. It is something that needs to be addressed before we face Kerry at the weekend.”
Overall the Naomh Columba sharpshooter felt Sunday’s win was a good one and that Donegal should take a lot out of the game.
“It was the stiffest test so far in the championship and Meath did ask questions of us and not only in that spell after half-time but early on in the game too. We struggled in defence when they ran at us and Cillian O’Sullivan and James Conlon caused us problems.
PROBLEM AT CENTRE-HALF
“We have problems at centre-half-back though Frank McGlynn did shore things up when he came on. Indeed, I thought Frank should have been introduced a little earlier, he has a real steadying influence when he comes on.
“Overall, I thought the substitutions worked well. Frank was his usual steadying influence and Eoin McHugh and Oisin Gallen made a big difference when they came on. Eoin has serious pace and in the modern game pace is very important and young Oisin hit a good point and also took his goal well.
“We had a number of good performances. Patrick McBrearty scored 1-6, with 1-3 of that from play. He took the goal well; his angle wasn’t the best but he put it away well. It was a big score and opened up a five point lead and gave us a bit of a cushion and put us in a good position at half-time.
“Michael Murphy was awesome and along with Ryan McHugh took the game by the scruff of the neck after Meath went in front in the second half. Michael is, without doubt the best footballer in the country.
“Shaun Patton’s kick-outs were brilliant too and played a big part in the comeback. He was also brilliant under the high ball and made a number of big catches late on when Meath were going for broke.
“He is one of the top keepers in the country,” said Padraig.
Padraig rarely misses a Donegal game in the league or championship and let it be home or away. And he is really enjoying the football that Donegal are currently playing.
“They are playing a very attractive brand of football at the minute. It is very enjoyable to watch. We are lucky to have a very talented crop of footballers and what I like about the young lads they are all big men.
“Jason McGee, Michael Langan and Ciaran Thompson are over six foot and they are still very young and are only developing; they still have to reach their prime which bodes very well for the future.”
PRAISE FOR BONNER
Padraig is also high in his praise for Donegal manager Declan Bonner for having the foresight and open mindedness to bring in former Mayo manager Stephen Rochford.
“People look at Stephen Rochford and see him as a manager. But he also has a reputation as a coach and he obviously has a big influence on the style of football they are playing.
“We are no longer solely playing Ulster football, there is a mix of Connacht football in our game at present.
“It is good to see and we are also very fortunate to have a group of naturally talented footballers that are capable of playing the style of football. Declan has to get great credit for bringing in Rochford. It has proved to be a good move,” added the former county man, who is not a fan of the Super 8s.
“I know it is giving us more top quality games at the height of the summer and is generating more money for the GAA. But I prefer the old system where provincial champions go straight into an All-Ireland semi-final. Club football is suffering big time because of the Super 8s and after all the club is the cornerstone of the GAA and if we don’t have club football the county game will suffer in the long term.
“There is also a cost factor for supporters. Donegal have two away games coming up in the next few weeks with away trips to Croke Park and Castlebar. Between tickets for the game, a bite to eat and petrol/diesel these will prove to be costly games especially for families.”
Donegal face Kerry on Sunday in Croke Park and Mayo two weeks later in Castlebar with the top two teams from the group qualifying for the All-Ireland semi-final. He expects Meath to beat Mayo which is the curtain raiser this Sunday in Croke Park.
Padraig believes Donegal will be one of the two to qualify, with Kerry the other.
Kerry opened their Super 8s with an impressive performance 1-22 to 0-15 win over Mayo in Killarney on Sunday last.
“I expect us to reach the All-Ireland semi-final which means we are going to have to win one of our two remaining games. But I honestly believe we are capable of beating both Kerry and Mayo..
“I know Kerry looked awesome against Mayo and they are obviously a good side with a number of quality forwards but they are suspect at the back.
“They were at home and secondly after Mayo beating them in the league final they would have been up for the game. The Kerry manager said afterwards it was important to win the home game in the Super 8.
“It will be close but if we iron out the half-time lapse we had against Meath and play for the 70 plus minutes we will win though I wouldn’t rule out a draw which would not be a bad result either.”