BY CHRIS MCNULTY
FIRST thing’s first: No, he didn’t mean it!
Frank McGlynn scored his second ever Donegal goal on Sunday, but a smirk crosses the Glenfin man’s face when you wonder if that speculative 28th minute strike was actually intended.
A one-two with Martin McElhinney opened the passage and, with Paddy O’Rourke off his line, McGlynn’s left-footed shot looped over the Meath goalkeeper and dropped neatly into the far corner.
“To be honest I was thinking more about a point,” he admitted.
“I did look up and the ‘keeper was off the line – but I’d have been quite happy to put it over the bar off my left foot.
“If it was on my right I’d have been thinking about the goal alright. It worked out well.”
McGlynn plays his best football when given attacking licence – and he might well have had a second goal, only he elected to off-load to Michael Murphy when he was put clear by Christy Toye in the 49th minute. Murphy beat O’Rourke, but Donal Keogan made a vital goal-line block.
“I was tempted to have a go; I could have had a shot myself,” McGlynn said.
“I just thought that the ‘keeper was a bit closer to me and thought that Michael might have got around him. The ‘keeper did well and the man on the line did well to get back and make a block on it. When you’ve got Michael Murphy beside you, the percentage of chances that he takes is a lot more than the ones I do.”
McGlynn watched in wonder as Murphy was ice cool in popping over a dramatic last-ditch free to tie the game and preserve Donegal’s unbeaten record at the top of Division Two.
He said: “There was the pressure of the kick itself and also the misses that the team had during the game as a whole. For him to turn around and put that over the bar, it was just fantastic in the circumstances.
“You can’t beat winning games, but it was nice at least to keep the wee unbeaten run going. Doing it at home keeps up the reputation of the home ground too.”
In the summer of 2012, a moment of McGlynn magic in the second half saw Donegal take command of the Ulster final against this week’s opponents, Down. McGlynn slotted home a goal, finished with the poise and precision of a forward.
His last recollections of playing the Mourne County are blurred, however.
In last year’s Ulster semi-final in Breffni Park, McGlynn was forced off at half-time, concussed after shipping a heavy bang on the head.
“(I remember) bits of it…Up until the knock is grand, but it’s pretty flippant then, sort of coming in and out,” he said this week of an incident that led to him spending a night in Letterkenny General Hospital.
“I remember the second half alright. A couple of long-range scores made the difference.
“I got a knock in the first half and was dazed. It was just a bang, a shoulder into the temple of the head, just one of those things that can happen.
“I managed to play on until half-time. I was called ashore at half-time. It’s not the easiest decision to make, but the decision was taken out of my hands by the doctors.”
This Sunday, Donegal face James McCartan’s side in their lair, Newry’s Pairc Esler.
With Down beaten by Galway on Sunday, Donegal are now two points clear of the Mourne county,
Monaghan and Armagh, with Jim McGuinness’s team having a vastly superior score difference.
“The way the results fell, it’s a big difference being two points clear when you have three teams on your tail,” McGlynn said.
“That point against Meath makes a big difference in the standings and our score difference is a big help to us at the minute. The way it is now we’d sort of have to drop four points to get caught. It can all change when you think that we’re away to Armagh and Down, two of the teams who are in joint second.
“We’re not looking too far ahead, but we’re aware of the table. A win against Down would be a big lift to us with the top two going to the final.
“We are just trying to improve game by game. Against Meath we learned a hell of a lot from the first twenty minutes, about how important the start to the game is. We put ourselves under a lot of pressure because of the start. We did well to claw ourselves back into the game.”
Donegal had trailed by five points at one stage in the first half before they finally managed to shake their heads clear.
Even McGlynn’s goal didn’t quite have the desired effect as Meath netted through Michael Newman at the other end sixty seconds later. However, by half-time, it was just a two-point game.
McGlynn said: “Given the performance we had, to go in two points behind probably wasn’t too bad of a scoreline. After getting our own goal we could have pushed on, but Meath came back down the pitch and cancelled out that goal straight away. That was very disappointing. It was just one of those things, we lost the kick-out from our own goal, Meath carried the ball well and drove hard at us. They got the reward.
“The Meath game will help to get us focussed again for the weekend. When you get a winning run going it can be easy to take the eye off the ball a bit. In a way this will help to refocus us for the game this Sunday.
“We could stretch out a lead on Down with a win. We’ll just go to Newry and hope to improve on the performance from the Meath game. Hopefully an improved performance will be enough to get us the win.”
Donegal’s experience told at a crucial stage on Sunday, with 2012 All-Stars Neil Gallagher and Karl Lacey able to come off the bench, while David Walsh, another experienced campaigner, was also used as sub for his first League appearance of the year.
Those heads were crucial to Donegal mounting their comeback.
McGlynn said: “Especially around the middle of the field, big Neil coming in added a bit in the air and took away somewhat from the Meath midfielders. When you have him and Karl Lacey to come on to lift the team it’s huge for everyone. You know the players on the bench will add a bit and will make a difference. You’re always confident that they can come in and make a difference.”