Friday 22 September 2017

Ryan McMenamin: Donegal's leaders unable to cope with O'Rourke battleplan

Donegal manager Jim McGuinness in deep thought as he looks up at the post-match presentation
Donegal manager Jim McGuinness in deep thought as he looks up at the post-match presentation

Ryan McMenamin

As I have said all along in this column, I fancied Monaghan to do well in the championship, but their display yesterday exceeded everything.

I knew that they would put it up to Donegal for most of the game but I still thought that they would maybe come up short in the end, but hats off to them, it was a wonderful performance and I'm delighted for my old friend Ryan Porter. He and Malachy O'Rourke have done a tremendous job and they deserve as much credit as the players.

There is no doubt that they looked at Donegal's display against Down and saw weaknesses in their set-up. They came up with a game plan to exploit those and it worked to a tee. The media had Donegal built up as a superhuman side and perhaps they got carried away a little.

For the first time, Donegal had to chase the game, and they looked as though they hadn't the legs for it, and they certainly came off second best in the hunger stakes.

Donegal are usually so efficient in front of the posts but their dangermen never got a look-in, with Drew Wylie and Colin Walshe both outstanding.

Walshe marked Martin Dunne out of it in their semi-final win over Cavan and he did the same on Patrick McBrearty – at the moment he is one of the best corner-backs in the country. Dessie Mone, Darren Hughes, Conor McManus and Kieran Hughes were others who stood out for me in a fine all-round team display.

In the first half Monaghan played 15 men behind the ball and Donegal struggled to cope. They kept taking the ball into the tackle and losing possession. Neil Gallagher made a big difference for them when he came on and he was the best midfielder on show, but too many of the Donegal leaders didn't show up, while Karl Lacey seemed to struggle with his fitness.

It will be interesting to see what Monaghan do from here, though. A lot of their players have played a long time to get that elusive Ulster senior medal and the big question is will they push on and try and make at least the semi-finals.

Donegal have only a six-day turnaround until they play Laois and Jim McGuinness could have a job on his hands.

Other sides will be looking at this game knowing how to take Donegal on now. Laois had a good win over Wexford but Donegal should have too much for them.

Tyrone are now in a better place than Donegal after their hard-fought win in Kildare. They set up with big Joe McMahon as a sweeper and it worked well, although my one concern is that they again only played for one half, and that won't be good enough from here on. The last time that they played for the full 70 minutes was in the league final and it's something they'll have to address.

Cavan continue to improve and scoring 1-22 in Derry is no mean feat. They will make the quarter-finals and that will be a great achievement for them.

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