Donegal can shade green and gold decider

Green and gold AIF 2012

Green and gold will deck the entire stadium but which corner of the country will claim Sam? It will be North v South on Sunday as Donegal and Kerry match up in the biggest sporting occasion on the Irish calendar, the 2014 All-Ireland football final.

We may feel grumpy ourselves at not being there and perhaps disillusioned about the whole thing but this is still the All-Ireland final. And people should still sit down, watch the match and at least try to enjoy it. It promises to be a fascinating game with intriguing tactical battles in store.

For instance how will James O’Donoghue fare against this Donegal mass defence? Can Donegal handle David Moran at midfield? Will Donegal be able to score on the counter as freely as they have been all year? Who is the more physical?

According to all the experts Donegal are but, after what went on in Limerick, well rest assured Kerry are no shrinking violets when it comes to the dark arts or physical requirements of any modern team. So on paper it looks a pretty even contest. And generally under those circumstances it is the key men who stand out and decide the nature of how the game in won and lost.

In fairness Donegal have surprised everyone this year. At the beginning of the championship I personally wrote them off as it appeared as if the McGuinness mansion was about to come crumbling down once more with all the noise out from the camp regarding key players deserting the cause. Yet it is a testament to the team that they have rallied again to march on and achieve what they have in Ulster.

Think about it for a minute. Three Ulster titles in four years. When you consider the calibre of the opposition up there that alone is a serious achievement. The last Ulster team to achieve this was Tyrone and before that it was Armagh. But neither won the All-Ireland while doing so.

To move on then in the quarter-finals and into the semis was not really a surprise. However no-one gave them a snowballs chance against the Dubs who were after all unbeatable in HQ. It was supposed to be another stroll in the park so to speak for the boys in blue.

But like so much in life, things have a habit of not turning out exactly to the desired requirements of the powers that be. And just when everyone was preparing to fantasise about the dream Dublin v Kerry final Donegal come along and upset the apple cart completely with a comprehensive tactical display on how to win against the odds.

The key players for Donegal are many. Certain names of course stand out but certainly top of the list is captain Michael Murphy. Initially Murphy came to note when he was named Young Footballer of the Year in 2009 after a sensational season during which he scored an average of six points per game over six games. He has also won a Sigerson with DCU, and was part of the Glenswilly team that won its first ever Donegal Senior Football Championship title in 2011. He went on then to captain his county to their second All-Ireland in 2012 playing a key role in the final scoring 1-4 in the match.

Alongside him are household GAA names in Karl Lacey, (Footballer of the Year 2012), Frank McGlynn (whom Joe Brolly claimed was one of only two players with a chance of making the mighty Dublin team), Colm McFadden, the McGee brothers in the full-back line, Paddy McBrearty (who is only an impact sub now) and the latest McHugh man to take the big stage with astonishing ease.

Ultimately the team is a testament to Jim McGuinness. When you consider his detractors, what he has personally achieved with perennial under achievers is phenomenal. Widely regarded as the best strategist in the modern game McGuinness generally leaves no stone unturned in order to win. Align this with a never say die attitude that has manifested itself into the present team’s bones and you have a fearsome combination of determination and talent. What he has in store for Kerry on Sunday no one really knows as whatever approach you expect Donegal to take, well generally it won’t be exactly one way or another. And this is probably their greatest asset – the way they keep the opposition guessing and how they then force them to adapt to the conditions they wish to impose on a particular game.

Whether Kerry can be forced or not is a different question. One of the biggest advantages they have going for them is being the underdogs for a change. That and revenge. Kerry don’t like to be beaten at all and to be beaten by the same team in the championship twice in succession is not on the cards for the Kingdom. And if they win the All-Ireland in the process, well all the sweeter.

Personally I think Kerry will see this game as a big challenge and will approach it with caution. They won’t rush defence into attack recklessly leaving gaping holes as Dublin did. They will instead employ their (ahem) quarter-back approach with Declan O’Sullivan coming in to pass the balls through the mass of Donegal jerseys. Quarter-back you ask? I’m sorry but no matter how Pat Spillane dresses it up the fact is that Kerry are using the mass defence as well when it is required.

So most likely this promises to be possibly a low scoring, hard hitting tactical battle. Referee Eddie Kinsella has already come out and said he hopes he remains unnoticed. However, he will undoubtedly have some tough calls to make as there will be some serious hits dished out in this match.

The biggest problem for Kerry though is that they are so heavily dependent on James O’Donoghue. To date in the four main matches they have played (Cork, Galway and ourselves twice) he has accounted for 40% of the total Kerry scores. If Donegal can nullify this threat alone then they are half way to winning. So Kerry do need to have someone else who can stand up if it is not happening for James.

But they have some alternatives in Crowley, O’Brien and Geaney. Also of course is the other main man up front Mr Donaghy. ‘Star’ as he is affectionately known in Kerry has fought his way back into this Kerry line-up and as we know is a formidable target man in there. His biggest assets are his size and his ability to handoff to runners close to goal. Plus he can score if given enough room. But denying space is of course is one area Donegal excel at. So an awful lot depends on the delivery into Donaghy.

To this Kerry will be hoping that David Moran carries his excellent form with him into Sunday’s game. If they can dominate in the middle third they will at least have some platform for precise delivery into Donaghy’s big paws.

No doubt Eamonn Fitzmaurice will also have some tricks up his sleeve as well on how to dismantle this renowned defence. A shrewd operator, one can already see the stamp made by him on this team and for the future. He is a pragmatist first and foremost, but he also comes across as a man who doesn’t like losing, at all. This man has no sentiment when it comes to winning. He unceremoniously dropped renowned defender Marc Ó Sé for the semi-final replay. Suffice to say that anything that can be gained from any angle he will use. In the semi-final Marc’s older brother Tomás noted that Kerry attacked us where we were reportedly strongest, i.e. the middle third. This is a direct throwback to the Jack O’Connor days at senior level.

Now Jack is priming the minors. It is worth noting as well the new regimes in place for Kerry at U21 level. Dara Ó Sé alongside Seamus Moynihan and Donie Buckley promise a team of serious toughness and power tackling that can and will be usurped down the line at Senior level. Ally this with the strength and conditioning of Cian O’Neill at Senior level and Kerry are undoubtedly taking a long term view on how they want to play the game. But that is for another day.

Instead, whoever comes out on Sunday assumes the mantle of champions. James O’Donoghue noted that you were regarded as nothing in Kerry unless you held a Celtic cross. On the other side if Donegal can win two All-Irelands in three years they will be recognised as one of the great teams of the decade.

For me I think Donegal shade it as they have a superior defence alongside a better balance throughout the team. But I wouldn’t be surprised at Kerry winning either. And even though they seem too reliant on young James they are after all the Kingdom and winning All-Irelands is something that is ingrained into their DNA.

35 thoughts on “Donegal can shade green and gold decider

  1. Good report WJ. I started out thinking Kerry have it in the bag, but that was before Donegal beat a good Dublin team. Now I am not so sure. Kerry will be strong in the last quarter if they have anything left to fight for. David Moran will not dominate midfield and Donaghy will not get the nice ball he enjoyed against Mayo. They are looking to O’Donoghue surely.

  2. Kerry might just win this a lot more comfortably than people are even considering . Not many seen the donegal victory over Dublin coming , i certainly didnt anyway. That makes me stop and think had they not impressed much up to that point, Dublin really underestimated them and bought into their own hype , their defensive shape was non existent .If Kerry can keep supply limited into Murphy and force Jims hand in bringing him out the field more , i believe Kerry will win handy. They have the forwards and midfield imo to dominate Donegal and they hammered Cork and beat Mayo by dominating the skies in the two games . Kerry might press high from the start like Mayo did in q/f last year.

  3. Well, mc Hugh won’t be allowed to run in uncontested like his Dublin markers allowed him to, that’s for sure. But then again donaghy and Moran will not be allowed the room to work like we gave them. I think mcguinness is miles ahead tactically and that’s where this game will be win and lost, Kerry had to count on a referee and mayos poor tactics to win, after extra time. Donegal by 3-5 points.
    Roll on February 1 2015. And a bit more smarts in our own camp.

  4. Kerry to win handy, I’d say, if they eep Murphy quiet there half way there, o donoghue will cause them all sorts of problems at the back

  5. It’s as if rangers were playing England. Don’t think I can stomach watching it. Have to listen either Jimmy the tactical genius or the aristocrats won through in the end. All pure shit from blind pundits. I think I’ve a shed to clean out on Sunday.

  6. Shed or no shed Paul, this is a must watch match. Regardless of whatever reservations you might have for either team or Managers it will still be fascinating to watch the whole thing unfold. Tactics no doubt will play a big part early on but like a lot of these matches they can take on a life of their own. As the game wares on I can see both teams throw caution to the wind and just give it a lash. Of course the winning manager will get all the credit for his tactical genus, where in fact he more than likely will have very little control over happenings on the pitch at all. Yes a fresh pair of legs at some stage will help matter but so much is down to luck, a bounce of a ball, a slip by the goalie or God forbid a bad call or two by the ref, a few breaks like that and Sam will be in the bag. Yes Paul leave the shed for another day 🙂

  7. Nice report JPM well done to you. Mayo McHale You make a good point and one from experience no doubts. When your team crosses the line a lot of what happens after that is down to hunger, skill, and luck.There are no magic buttons or levers to operate except a positional switch or the order in which the subs join the game. The winning manager is always a genius. By 10:00 pm everyone in the country knows what the loosing manager didn’t do right. Maybe less severe if that manager is from Kerry or Dublin, but certainly not a nice place to be wherever they are from.

  8. There won’t be much different in donegal’s approach. Why would there be? There wasn’t anything different in their approach to Dublin………same old same old…….except better.
    The Kerry forwards are no more of a threat than Dublin and so the same recipe will be employed. Try and stop them scoring goals by packing the defence and force them to shoot from outside. Whether Donegal can exclude JOD for 75 minutes is doubtful. He will likely produce one or two moments of magic and that will be the difference.
    A crucial issue is how Kerry will adapt to donegal’s approach. I reckon they will settle for a low scoring game. They won’t over force the issue up front and allow themselves get frustrated. Instead they will focus on starving Donegal in their attempts to break forward. Donegal will definitely not be allowed to score 3-13. They will have to settle for a lot lower score – whether that is enough to win I doubt it.
    So for me it’s Kerry.

  9. Kerry have one of the worst full back lines in the last 8 teams in the championship and how Mayo did not target this area I will never know – two miss kicks by Mayo resulted in two goals. They have an excellent midfielder in D.Moran but Donegal will not kick the ball out to him on their own kickouts – hence Moran will not have the same effect as in the Mayo match. Donegal will have a man marker on Donaghy and will break every ball and Odonoghue will be crowded out. Donegal to win and hopefully by 10 points ++++, so such so that Kerry will regret Ref Reilly decisions as much as we did and hence put back Kerry football 10 years.

  10. Ahh i dont know lads, if Donegal arent goin to go with a long kickout , Kerry were very good v cluxton in last years semi for at least the first haalf if my memory serves me right, gooch and JOD caused havoc in a high pressure game from the front albeit they ran out of a bit of steam ,i dont think this kerry team will though, you can see the cian o neill conditioning in them this year.

    Time will tell, i have called a lot wrong this year, i was convinced it would be a dub v Mayo final but i cant help but feel a lot of people are underestimating Kerry for this one.

  11. Contrary to most who have expressed an opinion I hope Kerry win on Sunday. If they do Mayo can legitimately claim to be the best team in the country, frustrating though that may be. But it could be a great encouragement to our team of warriors to have another go next year. Kerry’s title will be a bit like Meath’s last Leinster title, a monument to referee incompetence.

  12. Paul McDonnell…………..”Rangers V England”……Ha Ha you’ve got it right there !………..Exactly how I feel……….But I’m still licking the wounds to be honest….

  13. What destroyed Dublin in the semi was the fact that for the first 20 mins they played glorious football like they had done for the rest of the championship. They were 5 points up and could have been a lot more if the goals went in. It was a turkey shoot. They left the back open as all their stars tried to get on the scoreboard. Business as usual. Total football. At that stage they completely underestimated Donegal. Consequently, when the turn came with easy goals for Donegal and they found themselves in a clamp they couldn’t believe it. Psychologically they coulldnt handle it. You often see that happening in sport.They continued to play the same way – even more recklessly, leaving acres of room for easy Donegal scores. They were leaderless and Gavin was baffled as he is not a tactician at all – his philosophy is to let the team play and express themselves. Man for man Dublin were a much better team but their manager had no plan.
    Kerry are different. Man for man they are better footballers than Donegal – for the most part ,though not as good as Dublin (or Mayo). They have a very screwd manager ,who gets the best out of them. He will not underestimate Donegal and he will have a plan. He, like McGuinness will adapt on the sideline to whatever is happening on the pitch and his better footballers will carry the day..
    It is hell for us that we are not there, but if Kerry win, let us at least be proud that we took the All Ireland Champions so close that there was nothing between us. This is a far cry from the beatings of 2004 and 2006.We stand proud and look forward with confidence.

  14. The Cuffe Curse hit McStay. The rocking Robin tapped my window and whispered Holmes and Connolley with possibly Buckley on board. That’s it.

  15. Its interesting to see the two changes that Donegal have made for the game. Christy Toye and Patrick McBrearty replace Rory Kavanagh and David Walsh in the starting line-up. They seem to be playing a more attacking line-up, they probably feel that Kerry’s weaknesses are at the back. Maybe they intend to try and blitz Kerry early in the game as they did to us in the 2012 final. Their bench does look a bit weaker than Kerry’s though, so that could be key in the closing stages of the game, if the game is still close. It might be Kerry who play a bit more defensively in the early stages of the game.

  16. Do we Sean ? Isn’t that’s what has cost us year in year out, trusting others to chart us. Name ONE set of joint managers in any sport that was successful .

  17. That’s the spirit JC, positive as always.

    The manager hasn’t even been announced yet and you’re writing us off already.
    It must be a struggle to get up some mornings.

    And anyway, from what I understand this is not a joint management ticket.
    Holmes would come in as Connelly’s no.2 – if of course they are actually announced.

  18. If Connelly/Holmes are indeed ‘joint’ managers, didn’t they win an U21 All-Ireland with Mayo like that? So that is one example of success

  19. Personally I think this is good although I feel McStay would have done good job also.

    Frankly (and I know you don’t agree Willie Joe) anyone will be an improvement in terms of decision making on Horan. Others have set out his strengths and shortcomings so I wont rake over them other than to say his article in INDO today actually gives us a glimpse of his thinking- totally indecisive in relation to man marking and a big plan. I feel we would not have had a plan for Michael Murphy based on this article. Anyway it is irrelevant now.

    I hope those who backed Horan to the hilt all summer (including Willie Joe) now give the same backing to the new duo if indeed the rumours all over Mayo today are true.

  20. I hope they haven’t rushed into this decision… seems very quickly to decide. Not sure how I feel about it, to be honest. Was torn between the 2 candidates. I really hope it isn’t a joint team as I’m not sure that works. There needs to be one man responsible ultimately.

    Delighted to hear Buckley would be on ticket. I know Kerry lads that rave about him. He has also improved our tackling to a position where we are best in country. The continuity will be good, I believe.

  21. Hopefully Buckley will be involved.
    If so, this may well have swung it for Connelly. McStay may well have wanted his own man in there to replace Buckley.

    I was torn as well between the two.
    But whatever decision has been made, time to get behind the new man/men and give them our full support.

  22. Kerry to win. Actual All-Ireland final was decided in Limerick. We’ld have taken Donegal this year.
    Of Course, I hope I’m wrong. If McGuinness’s system and his players actually do pull it off, it will truly be an exceptional achievement.
    There’s a template there for Mayo to learn from.

  23. I do hope Donegal do it today. I have heard so much of the antics on Donaghy and co from the Game in Limerick, and a team like that doesn’t earn any respect from me, I would be ashamed to support such tactics. If there is any Karma in the world, McGee will soften Donaghys cough.

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