BY CHRIS MCNULTY AT SEAN MACCUMHAILL PARK
DONEGAL manager Jim McGuinness declared himself satisfied with his lot yesterday evening as he assessed a draw with Meath in Ballybofey, obtained thanks to a pointed free from Michael Murphy with the final swing of the sword.
On a day when he left the venue with a lot to ponder following a tough seventy minutes, McGuinness hailed the character of his side, who battled back from five points down to earn a share of the spoils.
While his team wasn’t as economical as they were, nor as fluid in their build-up as they were in previous games, they still managed to chip away at Meath’s advantage with the decisive score coming when Murphy sailed over the leveler.
“We would’ve been very disappointed if we didn’t get a point,” McGuinness said after a late siege had seen efforts from subs David Walsh and Darach O’Connor come off the upright, while another chance from Murphy was wide after Frank McGlynn off-loaded having hit his second-ever Donegal goal in the first half.
“We pushed on very hard in the second half and we had a number of goalmouth skirmishes. We were hoping that we’d get at least one goal out of that. We had two off the post.
“It was a good, tough game. The pitch was very heavy. Our boys were very flat early on and Meath were very good early on. It took us a while to get to the pace of the game, but they showed a lot of character in the second half.
“We pushed up a lot more and a lot earlier in the second half. We hadn’t done that in the first half – maybe that was to do with the ground, that they were taking the easier route rather than doing the hard work in the middle third.
“That’s a bit of a departure in terms of the first few games when we had been on the front foot. We did that in the second half.
“We spoke about it at half-time and the reaction was really good, which was a positive. We had a lot of men pushing on.”
Having played second fiddle in the opening period, where Shane O’Rourke and Bryan Menton were well on top around the middle for Meath, Donegal made a real fist of it after the break, having been rocked when Michael Newman hit the net just after McGlynn’s major up the other end.
McGuinness said: “It was a good day’s work, a good proper challenge. It would have been disappointing if we’d been beaten, so we’re happy with the point.
“Christy Toye was excellent; he really took the game to them in the second half and that was very important for us. Darach (O’Connor) did well off the bench – he gave us a nice, nippy option inside.
“Neil Gallagher contributed big time when he come in, David Walsh won a few breaks and was brought down for a free and Darach came on and did well. Karl did really well, too.
“That has been very good for us and we’ve been very happy with the impact of the subs over the course of the games.
“It’s about taking the positives and working on the areas we were sluggish in during the first half. I firmly believe that the soft conditions had a part to play in that. Hopefully we can push on again from here.”
Meath built up a head of steam early on and Donegal were struggling for long spells.
“It was our intensity level and we let Meath come onto the ball too much,” McGuinness reckoned.
“We should have taken the game to them a bit more. When we did that in the second half, it was a better game. I’m sure it was a good game for neutrals – it was exciting the whole way through.
“We showed a lot of character to try and find a way to win the game. Meath were very resilient and kept plugging away. We probably should have scored one goal. Some days those things go for you. It’s a good opportunity to work the bench again.
“We were comfortable in the first couple of games, so it was good to get a tough battle – you always get that with Meath anyway. It’ll hopefully stand us in good stead heading towards the dry weather.”
DECLAN BONNER will look to collect the first piece of silverware from his second tenure in charge of Donegal.