Monday 5 December 2016

Has the Donegal system run its course?

Published 20/07/2016 | 02:30

'Never before in Ulster SFC history have four successive finals yielded so few goals and since Donegal are the common denominator in all of them, it has to be attributed to their defensive approach.' Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
'Never before in Ulster SFC history have four successive finals yielded so few goals and since Donegal are the common denominator in all of them, it has to be attributed to their defensive approach.' Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Mickey Harte described the Ulster final as an "interesting and intriguing" game.

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He added that "games do not have to be 2-22 to 2-16 to be entertaining".

"I think it teaches us a lot about the fluidity of our game and where it can go," he said.

Harte has a point; and Tyrone's total of 8-48 in their previous three Ulster games shows how attack-minded they can be when the opportunities present themselves.

However, openings were always going to be scarce last Sunday against a Donegal team that has effectively changed the course of Ulster final history. They have been in six successive deciders - a notable achievement - where goals have been delivered in miserly rations.

Only four have been scored in those six games, with the last four finals producing just one goal, poached by Monaghan's Christopher McGuinness in 2014.

Never before in Ulster SFC history have four successive finals yielded so few goals and since Donegal are the common denominator in all of them, it has to be attributed to their defensive approach.

It kept the opposition out but has also limited their own attacking options since they are almost invariably outnumbered in attack.

The system brought Donegal an All-Ireland and three provincial titles and came very close to delivering two more Ulster titles last year and this year, so the argument can be made that the end justifies the means.

Still, you wonder if this is now to become the way the county plans to operate on a permanent basis and whether as new players arrive, they will be inculcated into the a system that's seen to have worked.

It's a dreary way to play the game. What's more, its time may be up.

Irish Independent

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