Wednesday 13 November 2019

McGuinness fumes over 'dangerous' challenges


Donegal manager Jim McGuinness exchanges words with Laois counterpart Justin McNulty at the Donegal Laois game last weekend
Donegal manager Jim McGuinness exchanges words with Laois counterpart Justin McNulty at the Donegal Laois game last weekend
Donegal's Neil Gallagher attempts to break through the challenge of Laois duo David Conway and Darren Strong

Liam Kelly

JIM McGuinness claimed that Gaelic footballers could suffer potentially disastrous injuries after Donegal earned a re-run of the 2012 All-Ireland final against Mayo next weekend.

JIM McGuinness claimed that Gaelic footballers could suffer potentially disastrous injuries after Donegal earned a re-run of the 2012 All-Ireland final against Mayo next weekend.

McGuinness put himself firmly in the spotlight twice on Saturday night: first when he and his coach Rory Gallagher indulged in a sideline confrontation with Laois boss Justin McNulty and selector Fergal Byron, and after the game when he blasted the increasing physicality of Donegal's opponents.

The managerial sideshow occurred when McNulty reacted to McGuinness complaining to a linesman about a challenge on Michael Murphy in the first half. Words were exchanged, then it got somewhat physical with the rivals bosses pushing and shoving each other, as did Gallagher and Byron.

It did no credit to any of them but it was almost welcome as a distraction from the 'puke football' on display by two negatively set-up teams who were strangling the life out of each other in that first half.

Afterwards came the ignition of a blast by McGuinness that was sparked by a reporter asking if he was concerned about the way opponents were marking some of his key players.

The questioner mentioned Colm McFadden and Murphy but, after a pause, McGuinness spoke very clearly and with emotion about the injuries Mark McHugh suffered early on in the Ulster final against Monaghan.

"I am not happy that we have a player with a busted ear-drum (McHugh). I am not happy he had a major concussion, I am not happy that he has a five centimetre – not millimetre – a five centimetre tear in his quad muscle as a result of the impact," said McGuinness.

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"I am not happy that he spent two nights in hospital. I am not happy that he has missed a full week off work.

"We are in a very dangerous position here, and I would fear that something is going to happen, and my biggest fear is a spinal injury or a neck injury.

"He (McHugh) shipped a very, very heavy tackle as well in the All-Ireland final (last year) and it did not do him a minute's good in the game after that. I will say this: Monaghan were the better team. We lost the final, that is not an issue, and number two we are not afraid of physicality.

"There was a lot of physicality out there tonight and we can live with that, but there is a difference between physicality and busted ear-drums, concussions and serious leg injuries.

"Mark McHugh's injury last week was our fourth concussion in three games (also Ryan Bradley, Frank McGlynn and Declan Walsh).

"Four concussions in three games: I would imagine that Munster or Leinster rugby wouldn't have that level.

"I have never criticised a referee and I'm not criticising the referee now, but what I'm saying is that there's a duty of care to your players and I would be fearful that our players are going to end up on the receiving end of something very soon that's going to cost everybody a lot of pain."

McGuinness' remarks will no doubt provoke reaction, but the dominant Donegal emotion was relief that they are now in the All-Ireland quarter-finals.

Laois set out to 'do a Monaghan' and park the bus in their own half.

What they didn't have was Monaghan's flying start, particularly on the scoreboard, and though they produced a good effort in the second period, they were undone by turnovers and shooting errors that were costly in a low-scoring game.

It was awful to watch that first half, in which Donegal ground out a 0-5 to 0-1 lead. The All-Ireland champions struggled to find a rhythm, and it wasn't all down to Laois, despite the midlanders' ferocious work-ethic, their physicality and double-sweeper system.

Donegal made unforced errors in kicking and passing and they were sluggish mentally at times. Laois had cause to regret the miss by full-back Mark Timmons, who pulled his shot wide in the 20th minute when he was clean through on the Donegal goal.

Bright spots? Yes, there were a few.

McFadden, Murphy and Patrick McBrearty powered over classically kicked points, and Ross Munnelly's sole first-half score for Laois was beautifully taken as well.

Laois lost midfielder Padraig Clancy to injury after just 26 minutes and that was a blow, but overall Donegal's strength of character prevailed.

They won the second half by nine points to Laois' seven, but McNulty's team were justifiably praised by their manager for their sterling effort.

"The most frustrating aspect was probably the missed opportunities, in the first half especially, we had a clear-cut goal chance and we spurned it badly," he said.

"On occasions we were trying to play the 'eye of the needle' pass into the full-forward line when they had the numbers there and we should have held on to possession.

"We paid the price for not capitalising on the possession we owned for large periods in the first half."

Scorers – Donegal: C McFadden 0-6 (4fs), P McBrearty 0-3, M Murphy 0-2 (1f), D Walsh, L McLoone, N McGee 0-1 each. Laois: R Munnelly 0-4 (2fs), D Kingston 0-2, C Meredith, D Conway 0-1 each.

Donegal – P Durcan 6; P McGrath 6, N McGee 6, E McGee 6; F F McGlynn 6, D Walsh 6, A Thompson 6; R Kavanagh 6, N Gallagher 6; D Walsh 6, R McHugh 6, R Bradley 6; P McBrearty 7, M Murphy 6, C McFadden 8. Subs: K Lacey 6 for P McGrath (54), M McElhinney for R Bradley (65), L McLoone for D Walsh (67), D McLaughlin for D Walsh (70).

Laois – E Culliton 6; P O'Leary 6, M Timmons 6; P Begley 6; D Strong 6, K Lillis 6, P McMahon 6; P Clancy 6, J O'Loughlin 6; R Munnelly 7, B Sheehan 6, C Begley 6; C Meredith 6, D Kingston 6, E O'Carroll 6. Subs: C Boyle 6 for P Clancy (26), S Attride 6 for E O'Carroll (30), D Booth 6 for P Begley (43), D Conway 6 for P O'Leary (52), C Kelly for B Sheehan (68).

Ref – Marty Duffy (Sligo)

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