Sunday 18 February 2018

McFadden calls it a day - with a number of Donegal's old war horses likely to follow him

8 August 2015; Colm McFadden, Donegal. GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Quarter-Final. Donegal v Mayo, Croke Park, Dublin. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE
8 August 2015; Colm McFadden, Donegal. GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Quarter-Final. Donegal v Mayo, Croke Park, Dublin. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

Rory Gallagher wasn't closing the stable door on any of his old war horses but he did acknowledge that it was likely some of them played their last game for Donegal on Saturday.

Afterwards Colm McFadden (32) announced that he was ending his 14-year career and it's likely that some others will follow.

McFadden will be remembered as one Donegal's best-ever finishers in a 170-game career, which yielded one All-Ireland, one Allianz League and three Ulster titles.

Now, the question is - how many others will follow him?

"It's not something I have spoken about - the reality is that it's inevitable a few lads will call it a day," said Gallagher.

"There's no doubt that we have a lot of players with a lot of mileage. One thing that stands out from this game is the phenomenal athleticism of Dublin.

"They have a number of players not as old as ours and that can dictate your tactics against them.

"We have a lot of lads playing a long time. Several of them won the National League in 2007. We've got to rebuild as a county. They (Donegal) have had reasonable success with the U-21 and minor teams and they have got to keep bringing those players through to replace the older lads. I see a great future for Donegal," said Gallagher.

Rory Kavanagh (33), Christy Toye (33), Eamonn McGee (32), Karl Lacey (31), Anthony Thompson (30) and Neil McGee (30) have all been on the scene a very long time, contributing enormously to a glory period for Donegal, but it remains to be seen how many of them will be aboard next season.

Young and old tried hard on Saturday but came up short against opposition that, apart from a spell after the Donegal goal, looked quite comfortable.

"We knew that if we were to win, we were going to have to take every chance. We were disappointed in the first-half - we missed a few chances. I think we had nine wides and the boys hit three shots into the keeper's hands from reasonably good positions," said Gallagher.

He was pleased with how Donegal contained Dublin in the first quarter but they failed to maintain it - allowing Dublin to open up a five-point lead by half-time - before adding two more early in the second half. It brought a spirited response from Donegal, whose goal energised them.

"We had huge momentum after the goal but it was still very hard going. You have to give great credit to Dublin. They have matured and are well able to win games in lots of ways. They played a bit of keep-ball where, traditionally, they would have just gone at you.

"Once we got the goal, we had to push on and get it back to a point or two and make them have a go at us. Sometimes we turned the ball over and they had the potential to hurt us. Our energy drained a bit as well," he said.

Gallagher believes that Dublin are getting better all the time, leaving the rest of the contenders with a massive task to catch them.

"They have only lost two championship games in six years - that's some record. When you look at the likes of Paul Mannion coming in and making such an impact it shows you the strength of their panel," he said.

Donegal have done very well too over the last six seasons but there was certainly a feeling around Croke Park on Saturday evening that there would be a considerable changing of the guard for next year.

Irish Independent

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