Sunday, June 17, 2012

Demolition Derby sends Derry packing

Nothing beats being there - thats the current tagline the GAA are using to market this year's Championship and its hard to argue with it. Especially when your approx 2,400 km away from the ground. That was the reality for those of us taking up our posts as part of Trappa's army in Polska; we're missing out on our regular GAA hit but thanks to a combination of Highland Radio, phone calls to pitchside and Twitter, Donegal Gaels could keep abreast of proceedings at Ballybofey yesterday.

There are certainly quite a few of us in Poland, without doubt there are more Donegal jerseys here than any other county. I'm currently residing in the tourist town of Torun, which is half way between the match venues of Poznan and Gdansk.

Torun unfortunately does not have an Irish bar and therefore for the first time in many years it was Charlie Collins' job to guide me through a Championship game. The big news delivered by Charlie before throw in was that the maestro had overcome his knee injury and was fit to captain the side; while Michael Murphy wasnt at his mesmeric best just getting him on the field and into Championship action was hugely important.

Ryan Bradley took the place of injury victim Rory Kavanagh at midfield and by the gushing praise coming from co-commentator Declan Bonner, the Buncrana man had a fine game. He deserves great credit for that after enduring a disappointing day in Breffni Park last time out when he was replaced early on.

Mark McHugh once again played his specifically defined role to a tee and he is developing into a Lacey-esque type figure who never ever seems to play poorly; its an insight into how Donegal are coached and how each player knows their role.

Derry tried to get bodies back behind the ball but there's more to playing a good defensive system than that. Jim and Rory work relentlessly on 'the system' in training and nothing is left to chance - other teams cannot just copy it and hope to have success.

The goals either side of the break closed out the game and it is hugely encouraging that Donegal were so clinical and professional. We've certainly moved on to another level after last year, and indeed Derry have stood still under John Brennan. The more games this team plays the more at ease they feel with the style of play and the better they are utilising their intensity and energy. The system requires incredible fitness but the players appear to be managing their bursts better now and they know when to take a breather and when to foray up the field.

Another plus from yesterday's game was the spread of the scorers; we can always rely on Murphy and Colm McFadden and it wouldnt be a Donegal win without at least one member of the half back line scoring. But both midfielders scoring as well lads like Leo McLoone and David Walsh getting on the scoresheet is a big postitive.

And so we're as we were last year, facing into a pivotal semi final dual with Tyrone but unlike then we will probably go into the game in two weeks time as slight favourites. We were a little bit in awe of Tyrone twelve months ago and early on it looked as if we were going to be steamrolled. Eventually we found our feet and ground out a win with Brick Molloy's late goal.

This year it will be up to Mickey Harte's men to take the game to us, we're the champions and the challenge for them is to knock us off our perch. To score 2-13 today is very pleasing, and you can be sure Tyrone will not be notching 0-19 in the semi-final like they did against Armagh last week.

Poland will be a distant memory by the time that rolls around in and the Donegal jerseys will have departed Torun, Gdansk and Poznan and will instead converge on Clones.
Come on you boys in green...and gold!