BY CHRIS MCNULTY
JIM McGuinness doesn’t believe that Donegal’s August 31 All-Ireland semi-final clash with Dublin will be a repeat of the low-scoring, defence-dominated meeting in 2011.
It was a game that drew reams of columns in newspapers and countless debates on television and radio. Donegal had taken the blanket defence to new level and it almost worked a treat. Three years on and McGuinness doesn’t see lightening striking again.
“The thing about it now is that this is a different game – a completely different game,” McGuiness said.
“They play a different system to 2011. Their defenders didn’t come forward as much but they’re all pressing on and pushing forward now. They make things very difficult for teams in terms of getting out with the ball and they play a lot in the opponents’ half.”
In 2011, on a day when Colm McFadden ploughed a lonely furrow in in the Donegal attack (pictured above) as 14 men piled behind the ball, Dublin just had the edge, winning through to the final 0-8 to 0-6.
Donegal had led 0-4 to 0-2 at half-time and were three ahead when McFadden zipped an effort over the crossbar. The loss of Karl Lacey rocked Donegal and the sending off of Diarmuid Connolly galvanised Dublin, who took the win.
McGuiness said: “We did a very good job defensively but we just didn’t score enough. You have to look at both sides of the coin and there are a lot of things to come into the mix.
“It won’t be the same because the teams are different, the systems are different.”
Jim Gavin’s team stormed to another Leinster title by beating Laois, Wexford and Meath by 15, 16 and 16 points reactively before the dolled out a seventeen-point hammering to Monaghan in their quarter final.
McGuinness said of the reigning Sam Maguire holders: “They have a very impressive system. Every one of their forwards is two footed and they have serious athleticism. We will have to find an answer to that.
“Dublin will go in as the raging hot favourites but we’ll live with that and we will go about our business as we usually do.”
There had been a lot of talk from the two counties won their provincial crowns about the possibility of their styles colliding in the semi-final. Eamon McGee called those discussions ‘disrespectful’ and McGuinness agreed.
He said: “There was too much talk about it. The bottom line is that there were two quarterfinals still to be played.”
Lacey had a scan on an injured hamstring earlier in the week but Donegal are confident that the 2012 Footballer of the Year will be fit to take his place in the side.
After a gritty 1-12 to 1-11 win over Armagh McGuinnness has plenty of homework to set for his class.
He said: “There are a lot of things for us, as a group, to work on. There are things that we maybe took for granted and we did some silly things. Within 24 hours we get over the performance and we start to look at the next game.
“There is a lot that we can add to our game. We have a three-week window until a game to savour for the players and we’ll look to get those things tidied up in between.
“Overall we’re just delighted to have come through and we’re now seventy minutes from the All-Ireland final.
“We feel that there is a lot more in us. The performance was a wee bit subdued, but we we know now what’s ahead of us. We are in the last four of the Championship and we have to look forward to that.
“There is a new game to be won and we will do everything in our power to get over the line.”