USUALLY after Donegal lose games, it’s left to Michael Murphy to come and explain the defeat to the assembled media.
However, after Donegal lost to Fermanagh on Wednesday, it was team captain Hugh McFadden who stepped up to face the music as the rested Murphy made his way to the dressing rooms.
The Killybegs man wasn’t happy with the result but he hopes they can learn from it in the coming weeks.
“Any time that you go out and play a game of football and lose, it’s disappointing,” said McFadden.
“The manner of the loss is disappointing as we did a few things right in the first half, but we lost our way towards the end of the first half and in the second half.
“We’ll look at it and see where we can improve moving into Sunday against Monaghan.”
It was a tough challenge for Donegal against a seasoned Fermanagh side, who are in good shape for this time of the year as they prepare for a promotion bid from Division 3 in the National League.
McFadden said Donegal showed in parts what they could do, but the Erne men were the better side over the course of the 70 minutes.
“Fermanagh were well prepared and we know they have put in a lot of work already this year.
“They put out a strong team against Monaghan and won, and then they beat Queen’s, and they came here with another good team.
“They’re targeting a good start to the league, and they came out here with the fire in the belly and they had a greater intensity in the first ten minutes.
“The form we showed in the middle of the first half is a glimpse of maybe what we can do, and we’ll try to add a bit more consistency to that going into next week.”
Donegal were slow to find their feet in MacCumhaill Park, but Jamie Brennan’s introduction spurred them into life.
McFadden and his midfield partner Nathan Mullins started to get on top in midfield, where they claimed four of Fermanagh’s kick-outs in-a-row.
However, they didn’t push on when they were dominant.
“Jamie came in and made a massive impact, and they probably weren’t expecting him to come in that early.
“He showed well when he came on and took his scores, and he’ll be happy with that 10 or 15 minutes.
“But we probably slacked off for the couple of minutes going into half-time and we let them get one or two handy scores.
“We wouldn’t be happy with that and we probably should have tagged on scores when we were going for a goal, and that would have increased the deficit that Fermanagh had to catch up on.”
Fermanagh upped their intensity again in the second half, and McFadden conceded that they were always chasing the game once Seamus Quigley found the net with 23 minutes to go.
“Once Fermanagh got that goal, we couldn’t get back into it. They defended well – got back into their shape and counter-attacked us.
“We’ll look at that and see what things we did wrong, and maybe there will be one or two things that we can change moving into Sunday.
“I’m not sure how the other games panned out but we will still be hoping to finish runners-up and hopefully that will be enough to bring us into a semi-final.”
Donegal do still have a very good chance of reaching the semi-finals of the McKenna Cup, but regardless, the players shouldn’t be struggling for motivation at this time of the season.
With the likes of Michael Murphy, Ryan McHugh, and Neil McGee all to return in the coming weeks, this is a great opportunity for some of the fringe players, and the new additions to put themselves in the frame for regular game time this season.
McFadden said: “There’s a really competitive squad there now before the main regulars come back in.
“It’s up to us now to take the jerseys and see if we can put our hand up.
“We want to make the squad as competitive as we can, moving into the start of the National Football League.
“A lot of the new lads are doing very well. They have shown good hunger and a good attitude to the work.
“It’s a learning experience for us all, and we will learn a lot from that second half when we were very naive.
“But you have the likes of Alan Lyons and Gary Merritt in this year, Tony McClenaghan and Stephen McMenamin are showing what they are about, and hopefully they can push it on in the next few weeks.”
McFadden has been part of the Donegal squad since 2014, and made 12 appearances for the county in 2017.
He has been handed the captaincy for the McKenna Cup, and hasn’t been daunted by the responsibility, as he aims to ensure he is named in the starting line-up for Donegal’s trip to Killarney on January 28.
“It’s always a proud day to be captain of your county.
“But I’m just focussing on my own game, and trying to lead through my own performances.
“I’ve been in and out of the team over the last few years, and when that happens, you’ve got to look to see where you can get better.
“My personal target is to make the first 15 for our opening National League game, and make the Donegal team as good as we can.”
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Donegal last reached the All-Ireland semi-final in 2014