Wednesday 21 February 2018

Donegal backs add layers to their play

Defender McGlynn's eye for a score typical of the evolution of the revolution

Frank McGlynn steals in to score one of his trademark goals against Down in last year’s Ulster SFC semi-final.
Frank McGlynn steals in to score one of his trademark goals against Down in last year’s Ulster SFC semi-final.
Frank McGlynn, Donegal, lifts the Sam Maguire Cup last September

ALTHOUGH the Jim McGuinness blueprint was initially based on funnelling players back from his forward division to muck in with defensive duties, the evolution of the revolution last year saw Donegal's half-back line become one of its most potent attacking forces.

The blanket defence of 2011, which reached its nadir in the All-Ireland semi-final against Dublin, was replaced by a finely sewn quilt that had the likes of Frank McGlynn, Anthony Thompson and Karl Lacey as integral parts of a devastating offensive machine.

McGlynn scored 1-5 from play in championship football last year.


In the Ulster final, it was he who netted the score that broke Down's resistance.

When he clinically tucked home past Brendan McVeigh with the precision of a seasoned inter-county forward, there was only going to be one winner. As high points go, it was up there.

"It's always special to score a goal for your team in the championship," says Glenfin man McGlynn, who scored one of the points of the championship off his left boot against Cork in the All-Ireland semi-final and also got in for a customary score against Mayo in the final.

The 2013 football championship has yet to see what Donegal have in the war chest. Lacey is only returning to fitness after a 10-month lay-off, Thompson has had injury trouble of late and McGlynn, too, is only back to himself.

He hobbled off 20 minutes into the Tyrone game with a hamstring complaint and had to leave the Down game at half-time because of concussion, the player ending up in Letterkenny General Hospital for a night.

"I remember bits and pieces – especially that it was very physical," he says.

"It's been hard. Especially when you're used to playing the championship games. It's tough to come off with injuries. We're lucky we have strength in depth to cope with injuries.

"It's good to be back on the training field. Fitness is building now again and I'm looking forward to the game.

"We always had the summer months in mind. It really benefited us because there is good freshness there now, more than ever."

From the foothills of the Bluestack Mountains in An Gaeltacht Lár, McGlynn's mantra is in keeping with the traditions of his locality, where hard work is the bedrock.

"We don't want to be complacent about it. We have to stay on the task at hand and try to get over the line.

"The aim at the start of the year was to retain the Ulster title. We've done the work to get here, so now we have to get over that last hurdle."

McGlynn insists that no-one inside the Donegal circle is bogged down by the possibility of a three-in-a-row.

McGuinness constantly says that nothing should be allowed stand still. Just what he has up his sleeve remains a mystery, but there could be a new plan of attack launched this Sunday in Clones.

Corner-back Paddy McGrath has yet to score a point in a competitive game for Donegal, but the once tenacious man-marker has added a new layer to his game.

It's not uncommon now to find the Ardara native switching to attack mode. "You have to add things to your game," he said.

"Football is evolving all the time. You see forwards defending like defenders and defenders breaking up the field.

"Turnovers are what you hear forwards talking about all the time now, so that shows you how the game has changed.

"It's not easy. Jim is always encouraging us to get forward, but if the boys are there, like Colm and Michael, scoring forwards, then it's only right to lay it off to them."

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