28 May 2022

Mac's View: Good bit of improvement needed for Donegal before Ulster final

In his weekly Donegal Democrat column, Donegal's 1992 All-Ireland winning manager dissects the Ulster SFC win over Cavan and is the opinion Declan Bonner's side need to lift it a gear for the final against either Derry or Monaghan

Mac's View: Good bit of improvement needed for Donegal before Ulster final

Conor Brady of Cavan in action against Michael Murphy of Donegal and, inset, Brian McEniff

It ended up a good day for Donegal in Clones on Sunday but fair play to Cavan, they made us fight all the way, taking the game to us from the throw-in.

They got the first point in both halves and had a game plan to keep themselves in the contest for much of the game. When they were three points down in the second half they came back to level again with about 57 minutes on the clock.

Patrick McBrearty's great point from play was a turning point and then came the goal. It was a lucky break but fair play to young O'Donnell, he took it well. It broke to him and he despatched it. He is becoming a really good player.

Patrick McBrearty got a bit of luck with the second goal to get on the ball but when he put it in the net it put their bulb out.
But what was important is that we beat a Cavan team that battled throughout, not like Armagh, who didn't have the heart for the battle.

Mickey Graham is a good coach and he knew the way he wanted his side to play. They had two great lads in the middle of the field and they gave very good quality ball inside, making it very difficult for our full-back line to deal with.

For any neutral, it was a very enjoyable game but for Donegal supporters like myself, it was a disappointing first half. We just hung in there. They had a big penalty claim and we were fortunate to be level at half-time.

But then you can look at the McBrearty incident; it was a dangerous tackle and should have been a red card. There was a danger of him being concussed.

Overall, a win is a win and we're in our 10th Ulster final in 12 years with Michael Murphy, Patrick McBrearty and Neil McGee involved in all of them. It was special seeing Neil McGee coming on; he is a kind of a cult figure at this stage, similar to Martin Griffin.

Cavan had their homework done. They have a lot of good players with James Smith in the running for man of the match. The two midfielders contributed five points between them. And their full-forward was a handful.
There is a bit of improvement needed for Donegal before the Ulster final. It was good to see big Caolan McGonagle back. Hugh McFadden took a knock, but wasn't going as well as he might.

There were some very good performances with three Donegal players getting man of the match awards in different reports - Michael Murphy, Eoghan Bán Gallagher and our own townie, Jamie Brennan. I have to complement Brennan. What was good about his performance, he kicked points when we needed them and he won frees as well and he put in the high ball for the first goal, albeit he was looking for a point.

Stephen McMenamin had his best game in the green and gold. I felt sorry for Brendan McCole at full-back with the way the ball was going in. The Cavan full-forward is a very good player and we needed Eoghan Bán in there in the second half, it was a big contribution from the Killybegs man.

I was happy with Peadar Mogan also. A few passes might have went astray, but overall he was good. So also was our 'keeper Shaun Patton. His save before half-time was vital and he was able to find his man despite a heavy Cavan press on the kick-outs.

There were a couple of things which were obvious that didn't go well for us. We have to tidy up our passing and we need to get more men involved in tackling in clusters. We can put those things right in training.

I read somewhere that we mixed the good, the bad and the ugly and I wouldn't disagree but it was nice to win and I was happy coming back down the road.

It was great to see the Donegal Ladies win also in what was a very enjoyable game. It was football from the top drawer. The running and support play as well as the diagonal running was really, really good. It was good for the supporters to see them in action and also great for the girls to play in front of a big support. Seeing Susanne White play so well was also great, especially as she was someone we could associate with in this part of the county.

Overall, though, I thought the crowd of just over 15,000 was disappointing. I know it was shown live on RTE and BBC but I was expecting around 20-25,000 to be there.

But again, we got the result and while the men's win was a bit flattering, we will not cry about that.
Elsewhere at the weekend the hurlers had a very big win away against Warwickshire but will have a tougher game this weekend against Tyrone and they are wished well.

The minors didn't do as well, losing out to Derry at Owenbeg and hopefully they can get back on track this Saturday when they travel to Clones to take on Monaghan. This is the Last Chance Saloon for them but as we saw on Sunday, Clones is a great venue.

This weekend also we have the second Ulster semi-final when Derry meet Monaghan in Armagh. I had a suspicion that Derry might take Tyrone for two reasons: Tyrone didn't get over the All-Ireland success. As a Tyrone man said to me, they had too many All-Stars.

Rory Gallagher had his homework done, but it will be a different kettle of fish with Monaghan. They are a dogged side and are not dependant on Conor McManus any more. They have a new full-forward in Mohan and McCarron is playing out of his skin. They also have the Scotstown brothers in the middle. They have a tight full-back and I think the last day the entire full-back line got on the scoreboard.

It won't be easy but if put on the spot I fancy Monaghan. They have a lot of experience and have been in Division One for a lot of years. The only thing against Monaghan is that the game is being played in Armagh, a venue they are not happy with.

Finally, this week, my condolences to the Brennan family in Ardara on the death of Frankie Brennan. As a young boy I remember him as not just being a good county player, but a player who played stylish football. His sons carried on his legacy. He was an outstandingly good player in a period when Donegal didn't have a lot of success.
Ar dheis De go raibh a anam.

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