Sunday 22 April 2018

Gallagher won't rush tired squad to decide on futures

Donegal’s Mark McHugh has his shot blocked by Mayo’s Barry
Moran during their clash in Croke Park
Donegal’s Mark McHugh has his shot blocked by Mayo’s Barry Moran during their clash in Croke Park
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

Rory Gallagher was in the Croke Park media room for only a few minutes but, inevitably, talk turned to the future and what it might hold for Donegal.

For Gallagher as manager, year one was over. It had ended at the All-Ireland quarter-finals stage and without silverware. It wasn't what he or the team have become accustomed to since Donegal bustled their way onto football's top table.

But in the second half of this match, they couldn't muster the fury that had seen so many teams wilt before them in recent years.

Lee Keegan's shot looped over the head of Paul Durcan to leave them in a hole. And rather than lighting the touchpaper, it marked the beginning of the end of their challenge.

"We felt it was going to be nip and tuck and that's probably how it was panning out until half-time," Gallagher said. "Obviously the two goals were big game- changers, more so the second one that was probably a bit fortunate. But it left us with too much to do. Mayo ran out fairly comfortable, to be honest."

Gallagher went on to reveal that his side had been running on fumes for a while now. Their Ulster final defeat to Monaghan meant they had to try and squeeze an extra game out of already tired legs and push recovery programmes into a tighter windows.

"Look, we are a fairly experienced team," Gallagher said. "Fewer games would be ideal. We have been managing game to game for a wee while now with some of them, but at the same time we recovered well and we were fresh going into the game.

"The players who weren't carrying knocks were fresh, but Mayo are a team that appears to be in the prime of their health. They have a very good age profile. It would have been ideal to go the front door - there is no doubt about it.

"It would have given us that wee bit of breathing space to get bodies right but we didn't put the chances away against Monaghan and that door was closed for us."

As if to emphasise the point of just how much football this team has played, 26-year-old captain Michael Murphy lined out for his county for the 99th time and he wasn't offering the Ulster final defeat an excuse.

"It was no factor at all," said the Glenswilly man. "That's the way the thing panned out.

"We value the Ulster Championship. It's one we have enjoyed success in over the last few years"

"It's still there to be challenged for and we are going to go back again next year and challenge for it without a shadow of a doubt.

"We came up short this year in an Ulster final and we came up short in an All-Ireland quarter-final. It's back to the drawing board and we'll keep battling on and keep the flag flying."

Just who'll be there to keep the flag flying remains to be seen.

Gallagher expressed a desire to see his panel remain intact but admitted that he'll have to wait and see what the future holds for some of his senior players.

"We haven't overly thought about it coming down. We have all been on the road a long time now - the boys especially. We came back with the very clear intention of getting back to an All-Ireland final and taking it from there.

"When you have had the success we had the last few years - winning one and getting to the final of another - that's ultimately what we have been interested in.

"It just depends if it is a road people feel they can go down again and reach where we want to go."

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