All we are left with this week is one question: Why?
I had mentioned a while ago about maybe a slight change to the backroom team being no harm, or about the possibility of adding a new voice to the dressing room. I didn’t expect this to happen. Rory Gallagher, Maxi Curran and Francie Friel have all parted ways from Jim McGuinness’s backroom team and it has been a puzzling week for us all.
The boys put in huge work. Rory was so central in relation to tactics and training. He was very much to the fore in everything that Donegal were doing.
They haven’t left on the best of terms and that is very disappointing given the success we have had in Donegal since 2011.
Neither camp is saying anything, which is probably for the best but, at the same time, the silence has only served to fuel the speculation. It’s a huge blow and a huge shock to Donegal football, especially after Jim announced on Saturday that he was set to stay on in the job and was starting to talk about beginning his preparation for next year.
There seems to have been a fall out at a meeting – and the big question now seems to centre on whose decision it was to part way.
Changing the backroom team is no harm. We’ve seen Mickey Harte do it in Tyrone and Brian Cody has recently announced a freshening up of his team with the Kilkenny hurlers.
There is nothing new in that – but it is the manner of this week’s exodus that is worrying in Donegal.
It’s alarming, actually.
There seems to have been a big fall-out and just where that leads us to now is concerning.
Jim had met Sean Dunnion last Saturday after a successful meeting with clubs the previous week and the road seemed clear for him to continue in the position with a clean run.
It seems typical of Donegal, though. One national journalist was on during the week and he said Donegal was probably the only county that could upstage even the All-Ireland final week in terms of coverage when they’re not involved!
The handling of this week has been called into question, but the reality is that the County Board was left in limbo. Sean Dunnion, the Chairman, I’m sure was facing an awful predicament, as were other officers of the Board. It must have been really difficult for them to preside over.
For the sake of Donegal football this needs cleared up and fast, otherwise it could have lasting consequences for us.
This won’t be sorted out overnight, but the quicker it is the better.
The surprising thing about it is the way it happened so soon after Jim confirmed his desire to stay on. We all assumed that the status quo would be in place. No matter what job you go for, the question about your backroom team is always asked. I’m sure the answer was ‘yes’ on Saturday when Jim was asked if his backroom team was the same for next season.
48 hours later, three of them were gone and it’s clear from that that there was a problem.
The solution and the road to that solution is likely to be an uneasy one, mind you.
Donegal Club Championship
HATS off to Malin. What a result in the Championship against St Eunan’s for Malin last Saturday. No-one, including myself, gave them a prayer against St Eunan’s – and now people are talking about them as possible champions!
It was a superb performance. They won it so quickly.
Eunan’s looked to have taken their eye off the ball. Maybe their preparation wasn’t great. The word early on was that Ross Wherity was going to come back and they probably should have explored that possibility a bit more because they could have been doing with him in Buncrana.
It was Malin’s day on Saturday and that shouldn’t be take away from them. They had their homework done so diligently and they’re now 60 minutes from a final – what a story that would be! It’s unlikely that they’ll see a better opportunity than this to win it.
I remember we (Na Rossa) played them in 1999 in an Intermediate final. We won it and we had expected to win it. How times change. Now we look at Malin and Na Rossa and the contrast between the teams: Malin are playing in the Senior Championship against St Eunan’s; Na Rossa are playing Pettigo at the bottom of Division 4.
Malin have done so much work – and are really reaping the rewards for their endeavour. Fair play to them.
They play Killybegs, who have proved that League form matters not a jot. They have lost every single one of their League games this year, but are in a county semi-final. Sometimes tradition can really stand to you and Killybegs will see this as a massive chance.
Their big match winner on Saturday was Hughie McFadden, who hit 2-4 against MacCumhaills. He’ll be a player who will surely be on the periphery of a county call-up and Jason Noctor can’t be too far away from a recall.
The standard of the Kilcar-Glenswilly game wasn’t too good, but Glenswilly dug out the result. Kilcar will be tearing their hair out at those late, missed chances.
Three times they kicked wides in stoppage time that would have drawn them level.
Colin Kelly and Ciaran Bonner played well for Glenswilly, but you wonder if they can step up again, but Kilcar’s Ciaran McGinley is a player I feel could really give it a go. He was on Jim’s Under 21 panel and could make a fist of it. He’s a player full of promise.
Talk about tradition and teams who have done well in the Championship, Ardara always come to the fore. They haven’t done well in the League, but they stepped it up on Sunday against Gaoth Dobhair with Declan Gavigan excellent at full-back, but old failings came back to haunt Gaoth Dobhair – they just didn’t have the forwards to hurt Ardara. Padraig McGarvey scored four points and corner-back Jonathan Harkin was the only other man to score, while they hadn’t a point in the last 20 minutes.
Ardara had serious experience coming off the bench and I expect Ardara to make life difficult for Glenswilly.
It’s right to say that Glenswilly are the fancied tip now – but would you rule anyone out after the Championship we’ve had so far?
TYPICAL Donegal to overshadow even the All-Ireland final for us!
Sunday is the day of days in the GAA calendar – what a difference we’re experiencing to last year.
It’s Dublin against Mayo and it makes for a cracker in Croke Park. Dublin are fancied, but I have had a feeling all season that this was Mayo’s year. They still haven’t got rid of the three guys who are still alive from the ‘51 team.
It’s a cliche to say that midfield is key and in the two O’Sheas Mayo have massive players. I wouldn’t be surprised if Denis Bastick starts alongside Michael Daragh Macauley at midfield with Cian O’Sullivan going to centre-back. Bernard Brogan has been close to exploding of late and we could see a big display from him on Sunday.
Dublin’s bench is one of their greatest strengths and in Kevin McManamon they have a player of real renown as an ‘impact sub’. Each time he comes in, he makes a difference.
If Sunday’s game is tight and Mayo see McManamon warming up, the seeds of doubt will appear again. Mayo need huge displays from Cillian O’Connor – and we still wonder if he’s really fit enough physically and mentally – Alan Freeman and Andy Moran. Freeman must be consistent and Moran has to recapture the form of old before his injury.
I think Mayo have been so effective, but they can’t afford a bad start. Mayo are ready – and I’m tipping a Mayo double for Sunday afternoon.