CHRIS MCNULTY AT CROKE PARK
WELCOME to August.
Donegal are still in the All Ireland senior football championship and
the autumn has arrived.
A spectacular comeback in a fascinating quarter-final clash with
Kildare on Saturday night in Dublin saw Donegal book a place in a
first All Ireland semi-final since 2003.
Jim McGuinness’ team now meet the winners of this weekend’s
quarter-final between Dublin and Tyrone on August 28th in the
With time fast running out in extra time on Saturday, the sides were
level and headed for a replay when Kevin Cassidy conjured up a magical
The imperious Karl Lacey somehow won a ball deep in Donegal territory
after Christy Toye had levelled at the other end. The ball was
launched to the corner and captain Michael Murphy (who came on as a
sub and played most of the game with a torn hamstring) came haring out
to get his hands on it.
It was passed around and no-one seemed to want to have a pop.
Kevin Cassidy, however, landed a majestic point from 50 metres to send
Donegal into the last four of the All Ireland Championship.
“It was just one of those, I knew it would be the last kick of the
game so we had nothing to lose. At least, we’d be back for a replay,
so I just decided to hit it and swung the boot,” said Cassidy.
“When it left the boot, I knew it was over and it was just sheer
relief and delight.
“We left our heart and soul out on that field.”
As Cassidy left the field, he headed for a delirious section of the
Donegal support. He picked out Gaoth Dobhair stalwart Tom Gillespie, who had put the Donegal wing-back through his paces in a couple of sessions this week.
That massive score from the former All Star propelled Donegal to late
August action and places them among the Sam Maguire contenders for
2011. Indeed, a new name will be inscribed on the silverware this year
after defending champions Cork were beaten by Mayo yesterday.
It came after a dramatic contest with Kieran McGeeney’s Kildare, who
will feel hard done by after Tomás O’Connor had a goal, harshly it
appeared, ruled out for a square ball infringement as the game entered
its final quarter.
Soon after, super sub Christy Toye fired home the Donegal goal 12
minutes from the end just seconds after his introduction to a first
competitive game for the county in two years.
Kildare hit back and forced extra-time, then the Lilywhites looked to
have won it in the compelling extra period.
“That’s why I’d take so much enjoyment out of the win because we were
playing a team doing the same thing from the point of seeing it out to
the very, very end,” said Jim McGuinness.
“They never give up either.”
Donegal have a month with plenty to work on for the joust with Dublin or Tyrone. It’s a welcomed break for Donegal’s walking wounded.
McGuinness said: “The month will be very beneficial for Michael.
“Christy Toye had shown glimpses in the last two weeks that he was
finding form, as did David Walsh. Leo McLoone is starting to show form
and it four weeks time we’d be hoping that he’ll be a completely
different player and potentially pushing hard.
“A lot of the media thought that we were finished with our season
because we’d won the Ulster Championship and we wouldn’t move on. That
came from the players – we wanted them to stay focussed, but they did
that quickly themselves.”
Yesterday morning, McGuinness gathered the squad at the Aura Centre in
Letterkenny for a recovery session.
Afterwards, they watched the weekend’s other two quarter-finals.
Munster Champions Kerry comfortably overcame Limerick, while in the
other game defending All Ireland kings Cork fell to Connacht Champions
Mayo in the shock of the weekend.