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Saturday 10 December 2016

'We can play it both ways'

Hill noise not a big worry for Gallagher

Donegal manager Rory Gallagher. Pic: Sportsfile
Donegal manager Rory Gallagher. Pic: Sportsfile
Kevin McManamon in action for Dublin against Ryan McHugh of Donegal during the Allianz Football League match at Croke Park last month. Photo: Sportsfile

Oftentimes, when someone says 'everyone's entitled to their opinion,' they're leaving out something to the effect of 'that doesn't mean they know what they're talking about,' or 'but I couldn't care less.'

Rory Gallagher is more diplomatic than that but he wasn't moved by the latest howls of disapproval at his team's efforts to shut down Dublin in Croke Park a couple of Saturdays back.

"From our point of view, we work every bit as hard on attack as defence. Every single day and night," he told the Herald, ahead of Sunday's renewal of a sparky modern football rivalry.

Protection

"But at the same time, you're entitled to do what you feel is best suited (to trying to win a particular game).

"The last day we played Dublin," he points out, "we had no Neil McGee. We had no Frank McGlynn.

"Karl Lacey was starting his first game since last August. We had a new goalkeeper. Colm McFadden was just back.

"From a defensive point of view, we went with a certain amount of protection.

"But we like to feel that we can put up some big scores. We feel we can play both - but it's up to us to get the balance right."

In the current climate, most Dublin supporters who attend a Donegal/Dublin game do so half expecting to be outraged at Donegal's unwillingness to play Dublin's game in Dublin's back yard.

The reality - or that skewed facsimile of it as presented by the League - follows that narrative of the entertainers versus the spoilers a little less snugly.

Dublin, having stealthily won all seven of their League matches, finished the League with a scoring total of 8-89.

Donegal, who lost more games than they won, amassed a very marginally inferior 8-84.

'Defensive' Donegal conceded 6-78 in that span of games.

Newly shorn of two of their most important defender, Dublin shipped 4-73, the joint-lowest of any team in the top three Divisions, a distinction they share with Tyrone who, according to many of those who watched their waltz through Division 2, have recently come close to perfecting the art of defence in gaelic football, albeit against a distinctly lower calibre of opposition.

Anyway, no-one was calling Donegal conservative when they put 3-15 on Down on the League's opening night or, for that matter, a week later when they tucked 2-14 past Cork.

"We tried out a number of things," Gallagher confirms of a competition in which Donegal took on a number of forms and stylings on different nights.

"And a number of different personnel.

"We've had a fairly straight-forward way of playing over the last number of years, which isn't going to vary too much.

"But we have tried out a couple of things. We definitely have put more emphasis on attack this year.

"Even our most recent game (against Monaghan) summed it up.

"We got 1-7 in the first half, which is a very good return against Monaghan. And then it dried up.

"But look, that's the challenge for us. A bit like Dublin - to reach a greater level of consistency."

And whilst Dublin pulled away with Philly McMahon's late goal a couple of weeks back, the fact remains that they were just a point to the good when Michael Murphy, the totemic inspiration of this Donegal team, was sent off.

"We had a couple of issues. Three games in a row, we went a man down. We lost a player," Gallagher recalls.

"One red card and two double-yellows. They had huge impacts on us and they are obviously things that we have to be conscious of as well.

"We probably ran out of a bit of steam in the last couple of games as well."

"Everyone's at a different point in their preparations. And sometimes, you get teams sometimes at the right and sometimes at the wrong times," says Gallagher in confirming that the League may not be the truest sample size in determining the real scope of any of the teams in it.

Organised

"We went down to play Kerry that weekend and Kerry definitely had everything to play for because they had only won one of their first three.

"We had Monaghan, who had everything to play for. Likewise, early on you can get teams who haven't that much done or they're not that organised.

"So it's funny. But at the same time, there's very few cricket scores.

"We have eight full weeks until we're out in Ulster so we took what I would call a relaxed approach to training.

"But," Gallagher added, "we're looking forward now to playing the best team in the county."

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