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Donegal do it the hard way

MEDIA ban; a variation on the theme.

Donegal beat Armagh by a point on Saturday night (1-12 to 1-11) in the sort of grueller they were, by virtue of the fact that they invented the concept, always bound to win.

Jim McGuinness sends word to waiting media that he will be watching the soon-to-begin Dublin v Monaghan All-Ireland quarter-final and thus an emissary, selector Damien Diver, would speak on the team's behalf.

Room groans.

No harm to Diver. McGuinness is blockbuster.

Later, word seeps back to the press box that McGuinness has agreed to host media conference in one of the boxes in Croke Park after he learns Donegal's All-Ireland semi-final opponents.

Journalists go to said box. No Jim.

Which was a shame, because McGuinness remains the most articulate/honest elite football manager in the GAA and his thoughts on what Dublin did to Monaghan or indeed, an in-depth explanation as to just how Donegal have rebooted so effectively this year would have been something of a treat.

There were several passages of Saturday night's win where, had Donegal been lesser men, they might have handed the baton over to Armagh.

But no, they were stoic and unrelenting and tapped into their reservoir of experience/fortitutde to ensure the All-Ireland semi-final the football world is drooling over takes place.

"There's four years of character in that team," said Diver, by way of explanation.

"They've showing in a it year in, year out since Jim took over and today was another leaf in that book."

"It's important that we get more intensity into our play and just get up to the level that we can play at. Everyone knows the level Donegal have been at for the past few years and today we didn't come up to it.

"Now, in fairness, the character was still there to come through in the end to grind out the result by getting the ball into the right place and over the bar.

"But it's important we do that for a whole game and not just the last five minutes. At this stage of the game I couldn't tell you what the reason for it is.

"We'll look back on the DVD and figure out why, whether it was Armagh or whether it was ourselves."


And so, just like Armagh's surprisingly long run in the Championship, the most boring and self-perpetuating narrative the gaelic football ended on Saturday night.

The Armagh media ban.

After such a sustained campaign of silence, along came Paul Grimley.

Firstly, he half suggesting that Kieran McGeeney might be in his position next year,

"There's no better man to lead Armagh forward than Kieran McGeeney," he said, somewhat surprsingly. "Whether

that is the case or not is irrelevant at the moment.

"I've made my position very clear from the day I took over, but we'll see.

"I have a lot of people to talk to before I make it public. The management team and the county board, we'll obviously have to speak to them.

"But whether I'm involved next year is completely irrelevant at this stage. It's the progress that these boys have made that we have to keep going."

"And certainly McGeeney is the man to keep that going if that is the case."

Thereafter, Grimley outlined the reasoning for the orange black out.

The genesis, it seems, for all this unpleasantness was the fact that his assistant manager, Peter McDonnell, was ignored by attending media at the launch of the Ulster championship.

Armagh refusing to the talk to the press on the basis that the press refused to talk to Armagh, apparently.

"But it then transpired that because we took that stance the media took a nasty approach to us," he explained. "And then the ugly side of the media started to appear.

"That only reinforced the decision we made to keep that going."

All of which might deflect from a stunning year for Armagh which might, had Michael Murphy and Paddy McBrearty not struck in injury time on Saturday, have gone on three weeks longer.

It was, in every way, a ballsy performance from Armagh. Though Donegal are clearly not back to their 2012 levels just yet.

On the bright side, Odhran MacNiallais is a monumental find and his goal on Saturday ensured Donegal stayed in close proximity with Armagh.

"It's important that we get more intensity into our play and just get up to the level that we can play at," admitted Diver.

"Everyone knows the level Donegal have been at for the past few years and today we didn't come up to it."