Monday 24 October 2016

Paul Curran: Donegal geared up for tilt at capturing Sam again

Ryan McHugh, Donegal, in action against Tony Kernan, Armagh
Ryan McHugh, Donegal, in action against Tony Kernan, Armagh

THE weekend's football games, seven in total, produced a few decent contests but no shock results and if anything it confirmed what we already knew before a single ball was kicked.

Donegal continued their total dominance of the Ulster championship with a surprisingly comfortable victory over a very disappointing Armagh team who were playing on their home ground in front of their own supporters.

It was a game that had promised so much and would give us a good indication of how the Armagh team were progressing under a new management team but in the end it turned out to be a very one-sided game.

Armagh needed a fast start but the opposite happened with Donegal out of the blocks quickly and the tactic of long, high ball into their full-forward line caused all sorts of problems for the Armagh defence.

Inside the opening three minutes a long delivery from Neil Gallagher found Paddy McBrearty on the edge of the square and he rounded his marker James Morgan and finished to the net at the second attempt.

It was the start the Armagh supporters had hoped wouldn't happen and it put Donegal in control of the game and that one score allowed them to play the game on their own terms for the rest of the half.

We all know at this stage how Donegal set up but it is still very difficult to break them down. It is a credit to the players they have been able to continue playing with these tactics that have worked so successfully over the last four years.


As impressed as I was with Donegal I was equally unimpressed with Armagh and the way they went about the game.

Most teams are trying to replicate the Donegal style of play with defence top of the list of priorities and while that works to a point it is the lack of attacking tactics where teams are falling short.

How can a team expect to win any match when they can only manage a couple of points in over 35 five minutes of play?

The game is about having a good defence but it is also about having a good attacking system that creates scoring opportunities on a regular basis during the game.

Armagh produced very little in front of goal and the longer the game went on it became clearer that only a complete meltdown from Donegal would give the Orchard County enough chances to get back into the game.

That of course was never going to happen and Donegal were able to pick their moments and keep the scoreboard ticking over to the end of the game.

It was a very professional and clinical performance from a team that are still capable of winning another All-Ireland but we probably won't appreciate just how good they are until we see them back in Croke Park later in the year.

For Armagh and manager Kieran McGeeney it was a sobering experience and one that will be difficult to get over. I wouldn't write them off just yet but they will need to record a commanding victory over Wicklow in the qualifiers to get them back on track.

The big game in Connacht between Galway and Mayo produced a decent duel in ideal conditions but the result was all too familiar with Mayo getting another one over their neighbours.

It is seven years now since Galway beat their great rivals in a championship game and even though the game was close enough on the scoreboard there is still a sizeable gap between the teams.

Mayo are a very good team and have the forwards to do damage on any given day and they also have the ability to close out a game when they are leading with time running out.

Yesterday we saw just how cynical they can be when required and it is an element of the game that all successful teams need to have in the present game.

If you look back at all the All-Ireland winners over the last decade or so they all had one thing in common and that was the ability to choke the game and the opposition when required.

It isn't a nice thing to watch but it comes with experience and anyone who thinks that Mayo are not capable of winning this year's All-Ireland they just need to watch the last ten minutes of yesterday's victory.

Mayo had the game won and anytime Galway were in possession they fouled tactically around the middle of the field. That can be very frustrating when you are playing against them so you really need to be ahead going into the last quarter.

Galway are a work in progress but they are going to have to grow up quickly and become as cynical as their neighbours if they are going to bridge the gap between the two counties.

They have enough quality to make a good fist of the qualifiers and may well end up in headquarters later on in the summer. For Mayo it's another provincial final to look forward to against either Sligo or Roscommon.


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