DONEGAL are still All Ireland champions and go into next weekend’s game with Laois with every chance of reaching the quarter final stages of the 2013 competition.
That is one of the few positives I can take from yesterday’s hugely disappointing Ulster final defeat against Monaghan in Clones. Donegal looked in trouble from the opening exchanges and once Monaghan got off to that great start it was always going to be difficult and so it proved.
While we all spoke about complacency in the build up to the game I honestly don’t think that we saw this coming. We were well off the pace from the early stages and we looked to be in trouble all over the pitch.
We didn’t win enough ball about the middle and the two McGees had their hands full against Conor Mc- Manus and Kieran Hughes.
Karl Lacey didn’t look match fit while none of our inside men scored from play. Colm McFadden’s four points all came form frees while both Patrick McBrearty and Michael Murphy were held scoreless as Drew Wylie, Colin Walshe and Vinny Corey all held sway.
Monaghan manager Malachy O’Rourke came into the final with a game plan which worked a treat. The start they got – four early points – caught Donegal by surprise and Donegal were up against t thereafter as Monaghan held onto their cushion.
Worryingly, Donegal looked a tired team and they weren’t as sharp as they’ve been these past few years. A number of decisions went against them on the day with Colm McFadden, in particular, finding it hard to win frees, and while David Coldrick wasn’t great it wasn’t the referees fault that we lost the game.
Monaghan were the hungrier team and were determined to win their first title in 25 years. It will be difficult for Donegal to regroup ahead of next weekend’s game but they should be good enough to get past the Laois challenge and anything can happen come the quarter finals There were very few positives for Jim McGuinness to take from the game.
Neil Gallagher did well when he came on and, like Lacey, the game time will stand to him ahead of next weekend’s game. Hats off to Monaghan. They got their match ups right and made life very difficult for Donegal.
To score only three points from play is never enough to win an Ulster title and so it proved yesterday. There’s still hope but we’ll need to see a much improved Donegal performance next time out.