BY LIAM PORTER
According to full-forward Colm McFadden, Donegal players will head to Croke Park this week knowing they’ve had the best preparations possible for their semi-final clash with Cork.
McFadden was one of a number of county players to line out for his club two weekends ago in all-county league fixtures, but he’s thankful the club championship has been put on hold.
“I lined out against Paddy McGrath and afterwards,” says McFadden “when we sat down for a cup of tea afterwards we were checking to hear if there had been any injuries and thankfully there weren’t. They were league games but if it had been championship these games would have been hell for leather.”
In that regard, and indeed in regard to the other preparations, he’s convinced the team has had the very best.
“We’ve had the best possible preparations we could have had going into al all-Ireland semi-final. The county board have been very co-operative, they have given us every opportunity that we can and we have to be thankful for that – it was needed, we need all the help we can to try and get over Cork on Sunday.”
Like the rest of the Donegal players, McFadden is under no illusions about the task that lies ahead when they face the men from the Rebel County.
“We were at this stage last year having beaten a good Kildare team before coming up short against Dublin and while we enjoyed the win against Kerry it was still only a quarter-final win. We know we’ll have to up our game by a good few percent if we are to see off Cork.”
The St. Michael’s man insists the players will learn from the Kerry game and take what they have learnt into Sunday’s clash.
“We definitely will learn from the Kerry game and we know if we are in the situation we found ourselves in against Kerry – ahead going into the last five minutes as we were – we’ll have to close it out a bit better and not put as much pressure on ourselves or the supporters.”
Getting ahead of Cork though will pose a problem of its own though and McFadden expects a tough battle with no quarter asked or given.
“Cork are a big and athletic side and it’ll be tough but when you get to this level, all-Ireland quarter-finals and all-Ireland semi-finals, the intensity and the hits are all there, even look at the ferocity of the hits in the all-Ireland final between Dublin and Kerry last year – it’s what we know to expect.”
But he feels Donegal has enough in their armory now to curtail the threat of the Cork men.
“They do have a serious forward line, a good bench and great runners from midfield and the half-back line, but we’ll work hard on what we have to do and hopefully we can curtail the threat.”
Memories of that painful defeat in 2009 will add an extra injection of determination for the Donegal men, but it won’t be the only thing driving them on.
“The result three years ago might be in the back of the mind a bit, but it’s a total new game the next day. It’s just like the league game against Cork earlier in the year will mean nothing, we played Kerry in the league and they beat us by double scores so we have to be aware that this is a total new game and approach it right.”
And compared to the preparations for the semi-final last year, McFadden insists a year down the line the team is more ready and eager for the battle now.
“Last year at this stage we had only 6 or 7 months’ work under Jim done. We have another 12 months now on top of that. We feel our game has progressed and evolved a lot from last year defensively and in attack, more so in how we can get up the field now and get scores.”
The evolution and indeed the continued success has heightened expectation among the supporters, something the full-forward says is ‘only natural’.
“Last year when we had Ulster title success, everybody was delighted with it, but the kind of person the human is, they kind of get selfish and they want more. Last year they were probably content for us to win an Ulster but this year they want us to achieve the ultimate goal and to go on to the all-Ireland final and win Sam Maguire.”
He admits that’s an aim shared by the players now too, but stressed that they had set Ulster as their target again at the start of the year.
“The players first and foremost set out to win our Ulster title back again. It was, and is our dream of course to get to an all-Ireland final and we all believe we can do that,” he said.