BY CHRIS MCNULTY IN NEWRY
DONEGAL captain Michael Murphy says Donegal must work on their accuracy ahead of a crunch clash with Louth in Ballyshannon in a fortnight’s time.
Despite being beaten by Down in Newry yesterday, Donegal’s marginally greater score difference has them at the head of the condensed pile at the top of Division 2.
Monaghan reeled in the difference with a ten-point success over Armagh on Saturday night and the margins are now wafer thin at the summit of the Division.
Donegal, Down and Monaghan are locked on seven points, with Donegal set to take on relegation-threatened Louth – still without a win – on March 30.
Murphy insists Donegal’s conversion ratio has to improve ahead of the meeting with the Wee County.
In Newry, Donegal were guilty of some poor shot taking with twelve wides and another five balls dropping short.
“We had our chances,” Murphy said.
“As forwards, we should have got more away but I suppose at least we’re getting the chances. There were some tough hard battles but it’s disappointing to come out on the wrong side of it but it’ll keep us going for the two weeks ahead of Louth.
“We’ve two weeks to work on our shooting. Look, there’s still plenty of positives there.
“We kept Down to a relatively good number of scores but if we, the forwards had’ve kept our side of the bargain at the other side of the pitch, who knows? Down probably deserved it
“It was a good test and another step on the ladder towards the level we have to get to. That’s what we will be doing.”
Down appear to have abandoned their traditional game in favour of the more Ulster-orthodox style, which was evident here as a hard-working Down unit forced Donegal into uncharacteristic errors and kept a lid on a forward unit that had been in impressive form before this weekend.
Murphy said: “All teams are trying to keep the opposition to very little scores while pitching in at the other end of the pitch. It’s trying to marry those two things. That’s the two main objectives. Normally, if you can do that you can come out on the right side of it.
“You find teams at different levels at the start of the league and then it levels out nearer the end, in terms of fitness levels and plans. That’s been the case for us over the last couple of weeks and we’ll take it on from there.
“It’s ourselves, Monaghan and Down now on seven points and there’s two games, four points, up for grabs. Louth will be fighting hard and we’ve Armagh then.
“We’re happy where we are at, certainly player-wise. We have great competition for places and the injuries are clearing up. We’ve only really Paddy McGrath out so bar that we’re full strength so that’s great for training.”
With two games to play in the League, Murphy and co are well aware that the big date – May 25th – isn’t far away.
And the good form of Derry, under their former manager Brian McIver, hasn’t gone unnoticed in Tir Chonaill, with the Oak Leaf side defeating Dublin in Celtic Park.
Murphy said: “Derry will be a huge game and they’ve beaten Dublin and have been mighty impressive so far. They’re taking the bull by the horns and will have confidence taking on anyone in Celtic Park.
“But that was always going to be the case. All we can do is hold up our end of the bargain and keep pushing forward over the next couple of weeks.”