Sunday, January 13, 2013
Inexperienced Donegal Mauled by Monaghan
A first home game of the year for the All-Ireland Champions but its safe to say we’re all waiting for the homecoming proper in May after watching the mauling handed out by Monaghan today.
It was a similar story to Wednesday night with an inexperienced Donegal being well beaten by a superior conditioned side but it was a useful exercise nonetheless with some of the new lads doing their bid for a permanent squad place no harm at all.
The McGuinness ‘system’ is well known to the players, and everyone else really at this stage, and as such it makes it a bit easier for players to slot in when required; however it is certainly less troublesome for defenders to take up the baton. A mobile, pacey defender can answer most of the questions asked of him and with numbers behind the ball he has help by his side (even though the questions came a bit too quick for the back unit today). It’s a different story up front where a lot of Donegal’s forward play is built upon physical presence and ball winning ability. When the usual suspects aren’t available it can be very difficult for the forward line to play with any kind of cohesion and so much more work goes into each score. Today was a case in point when it took 28 minutes for the first score to arrive, that being Adrian Hanlon’s goal.
Daniel McLaughlin going off early after shipping a heavy knock to his knee while taking a shot at goal didn’t help matters up front; the St Michael's man was very effective on Wednesday night and his pace and piercing runs were missed.
The Naomh Conaill duo of Dermot Molloy and Marty Boyle were unavailable from the off today with each suffering from a bout of the vomiting bug and this further depleted the options available to Maxi Curran.
Gary McFadden was again prominent and looked Donegal’s most dangerous player. He played in midfield today but still got forward whenever he could and got his name on the score sheet, adding to the four points he registered in Brewster Park. His leadership is vital on days like this when there are so many newcomers on the field and of course he’s no stranger to that type of role having captained his club to county glory in 2011. He’s one who could well have his eye on a starting spot in Croke Park in three weeks time.
Shane McGowan was another who put impressive back-to-back displays together and indeed was the standout performer in green and gold today. Playing what could be termed the ‘McHugh role’ he looked good on the ball and showed great anticipation - just like the Kilcar man did all last year.
A goal for the visitors almost straight from the restart killed the game and it was a second half procession for the Farney men. Monaghan have traditionally always had strong, tough footballers who bring great physicality to games and this was evident again today. They also moved the ball extremely well at times and regardless of the nature of the teams, wracking up 3-16 against Donegal is good going.
They had many excellent performances today but Kieran Hughes stood tallest and his afternoon was peppered with fine score taking, good build up work and some sumptuous assist play. One particular highlight came in the second half when he hit an overhead reverse pass with his weaker right foot to set up a point for substitute Dermot Malone.
Willie Gillespie came into the game more in the second half for the hosts and scored a wonderful point off his right following clever use of his body to shield the incoming ball from the defender before grasping it and slotting it over. He did something similar in the first half and was unlucky not to get a penalty when striking for goal on that occasion.
Malachy O’Rourke’s men appear to motoring along nicely and they will face Fermanagh on Wednesday night in a shoot-out for top spot. Of course Monaghan could easily have been our opponents in last year’s Ulster Final, their second half collapse in the semi against Down is no doubt still a sore point. They have a good manager in place in the shape of O’Rourke who had a good stint as Fermanagh boss and indeed the Ernemen were only a good free-taker away from an Ulster Championship in 2008.
Monaghan could certainly be in the mix again this Summer, they are on the weaker side of the draw and will fancy themselves as dark horses for the Anglo Celt.
There’ll be nothing dark about Donegal’s quest for three-in-a-row of course and depending on the decision from the Ulster Council over whether MacCumhaill Park is fit to the host eagerly awaited clash with Tyrone, that bid could begin on home turf. The old ground was quiet and hushed today but hopefully, with the correct call from Ulster HQ, the place will be rocking come the end of May.