Wednesday 24 January 2018

Gallagher on defensive over Donegal's negative reputation

Cliona Foley

Cliona Foley

DONEGAL'S tussle with Kildare next weekend will probably start off like a football "chess match", according to the Ulster champions' selector Rory Gallagher.

"Our league game against them was 1-5 to 0-8," he noted. "One of my friends texted me after the draw and said this will be a chess match, but I can't see it being that low-scoring. These games usually open up after 15 to 20 minutes in Croke Park.

"The early stages can be low-scoring, but after that, certainly if one team gets ahead, the other team has to come out and play a bit more and I'd imagine you'll see a lot of attacking football."

The former Fermanagh star, who was top-scorer in Ulster for three consecutive summers (2000-02) and still holds the province's one-game scoring record (3-9 v Monaghan in '02), knows all about attacking football.

Yet he and Donegal manager Jim McGuinness have copped heavy flak for Donegal's defensive style this season, despite bringing the county their first Ulster title since 1992.

"We make no apologies, we just play football and we don't think we are as defensive as people say," he said. "When we go to training, we don't say 'we are just going to concentrate on defending here'.

"You have to work on both sides of the game and both get equal billing in our preparation. We'd love to go out at the weekend and score 1-20 but whether that happens or not I don't know."

Dermot 'Brick' Molloy suffered swelling around his knee in a club U-21 game last week and is Donegal's main injury worry, but Gallagher revealed he is expected to return to training tonight and "there's a good chance that he'll be fit to play."

Donegal used the Slieve Russell Hotel in Cavan as a pre-match base before the Ulster semi-final and final, which caused some controversy.

The county board funded it the first time but refused to do so a second time, when London-based Donegal businessman Tony McFadden picked up the tab.

But Gallagher said the stayover was necessary because of the size of the county and the amount of travelling Donegal's players have to undertake, even for training.

Saturday's game brings them back to Croke Park, where they beat Laois this season in the Division 2 league final.

Gallagher has been working in Donegal for the last two years and was surprised and delighted when McGuinness approached him to get involved last Christmas.

But he is not a bit surprised at the man in the opposite corner this weekend.

"I know Kieran McGeeney well -- we worked together for about a year in Dublin and I played against him as well. He was a very successful footballer, very driven, but I don't think he's the person the media make him out to be. There's a lot more to him," he said.

"He enjoys it and whatever it is about him, the teams he's involved in are successful -- that's not by accident. Whether it's with Mullaghbawn, Queen's, Na Fianna, Armagh and now with Kildare, they've all improved and he's a huge influence on that."

Irish Independent

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