Wednesday 13 December 2017

Donegal's new options in their attack make them more potent

WATCHING Brazil's catastrophic World Cup semi-final defeat to Germany, Michael Murphy could empathise.

His moment came last August in Croke Park when all the magic of Donegal's All-Ireland win a year previous ceased.

Mayo were ruthless. And the game was over far from its literal end. The atmosphere in the stadium, from Donegal's perspective, changed colour to one of noiseless shock.

There was no plausible way Donegal could do anything other than minimise their embarrassment yet they had to see the match out until the final whistle, absorbing the vibrations of the result whilst attempting to stop a rampant Mayo team making their pain even worse.

"The tide turns against you," he admits.

"When you're in the game, you can turn the tide around that bit easier. But when things go against you, you can be powerless. It seemed to be one of those days."

Hindsight suggested the rot had already set in by the time Donegal were beaten by Monaghan in the Ulster final.

Murphy, for one, says he and his team didn't go through the process of resetting their ambitions.

"When you go into a final," he explains, "nothing comes into your head about a back door and you're engrossed about getting through that.


"You're not worried about playing football the next week and it comes as a bit of shock, having been beaten, trying to get over the line.

"It may have been a spiralling effect last season, we just didn't perform in either game and that's what hurts a lot."

Which isn' to say that Donegal have embraced the possibility of losing this Sunday back in Clones.

It's just that, for what it's worth, they'll have experienced whichever emotion the final whistle brings.

Subsequent results have cast a dim light over Donegal's achievements in beating both Derry and Antrim but that's not their fault, it's just difficult to judge how rejuvenated they are as of yet.

Monaghan, meanwhile, have battled twice with Armagh and come successfully through, certainly a more true line of form.

"Results decide the outcomes of everything," Murphy says.

"If we win, it's the best experience. If it's the reverse, it's the worst thing in the world.

"We've a clean bill of health which is a different experience from last year," he points out.


"We were very mix and match and we'd bodies coming in and out of training.

"It's been brilliant, the gradual process and many bodies pushing things on.

"It's a positive but we need to translate that on to the pitch. Everyone can be right as rain and fit as fiddles but we need to translate that to the pitch."

On the one hand, it's improbable that Donegal win an Ulster title without Colm McFadden and/or Paddy McBrearty drastically increasing their output.

On the other, the emergence of Odhrán MacNiallias and Darach O'Connor as viable attacking alternatives gives Donegal a dimension they didn't even have in 2012

"We've always tried to work on that, with Odhrán and Darach, that's the big thing for us to have threats all over the field," Murphy explains.

"It's up to all of us now to chip in. Some day a player will have an off-day and we need to be ready for that."

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