BRIAN MCENIFF COLUMN: Donegal must keep their discipline and keep eye on the prize

BRIAN MCENIFF COLUMN: Donegal must keep their discipline and keep eye on the prize

We're in the Ulster final, that's the main thing after the weekend. You would be disappointed with Armagh's effort, I would have to say. I thought we would have had a tougher battle. But be that as it may, it is good to be back in an Ulster final with a lot of good performances.
But as regards Armagh, I remember Kieran McGeeney since when he was a cub. He came into the Armagh team after minor in 1999 and I would have managed him in Ulster teams and the Irish team. He was always an in-your-face type of player.
But I was surprised by the way Armagh played on Saturday under his guidance.
Donegal were very good. Peadar Mogan really cut a dash. Back two years ago I mentioned him after watching him in a league game in Bundoran. I saw him against Bundoran, albeit at U-21B level last year.
Michael Langan gave us a very good start. I was very happy that he took his point. I have something about getting an early goal, it can let the guard down. You can sit back after a goal.
Then on the other hand, there was a stage late in the game when Jamie Clarke had the ball in overtime. They could have got in for a goal at that stage as we let our guard down. And I saw (Michael) Murphy jawing at a Donegal player near the sideline for doing just that, letting the guard down. You must keep your forcus for whatever it is, 75, 76 minutes, whatever it takes. You never, ever take your eye off the ball.
I remember as a young boy, talking to Seamus Hoare, the Donegal goalkeeper. He always warned about that with his kickouts; you never take your eye off the ball. If you're a forward you come out facing the goals. You watch balls hopping off uprights and so on. Those things are very, very important.
Overall, it was a very, very good performance and the lads that came in from the bench made their contribution as well. There is a good strong panel there now and that would give us hope for Sunday.
I think (Stephen) McMenamin is hurt for Sunday and that is disappointing because he is playing really, really well. But we will just have to get on without him.
Neil McGee is actually playing better than he has been for a couple of years. He is happy in his own skin and has a great influence on the whole of the defence.
It will be important to keep our discipline again on Sunday. It was good to go through the game last week without picking up even one card but then again we were not confronted at all by Armagh. It was very disappointing display from Armagh from that point of view. I would have expected more from a McGeeney trained team.
But in saying that Murphy did come in for a fair degree of attention. They seemed to focus a lot on Murphy, but if they are going to do that and put four men around him, you know, there has to be a lot of men free.

KICKING BALL
I am a great man for kicking ball. I remember when I went to Louth in 2010 when we were getting ready to play Kildare. And in one of the training sessions I went in and refereed it and didn't allow a hop or a solo. We made space inside and they started kicking the ball and they played well thereafter.
Nothing travels as fast as the ball. You can't do it all the time and it's important that we retain possession the way we do it, but I like the kicking part of the game, because Kerry are very good at it.
When we get the mark, we have the forwards with the ability to kick them. We had 13 different scorers on Saturday which is a big plus. Every player on the team is fit to take a score.
We left a couple of balls short. We can get better and better and we need to get better and better and have an eye on a bigger prize down the road.
But don't underestimate Cavan. They have showed against Monaghan and they have showed against a classy enough Down team, they have great fighting spirit and they are stronger than last year. They seem to have bulked up. They are definitely a physically stronger team than last year.
Mickey Graham had done well with Mullinalaghta in Longford, that lad knows his football. They came back last year against Donegal in the Ulster final and only lost by five points in the end.
Donegal need to be forewarned about that and must not drop their guard until the final whistle is blown.
I have had plenty of run-ins with Cavan over the years and know exactly what Donegal can expect on Sunday. My last championship game as Donegal manager back in 2005 ended in defeat, a game we were expected to win. We missed a penalty. We gave them an eight point lead in that game.
Even back in 1992 we were blessed to get out of there, so don't underestimate Cavan in any game. I remember them drawing with Tyrone in 2005 and Tyrone went on to win the All-Ireland. There is a huge tradition in Cavan. When I was a young boy they had won more Ulster titles than the other eight counties put together.
They have had a lean period since 1969 with just one title. They had team enough in the 1970s if they had managed themselves.
I was disappointed the final was taken out of Clones this year. They could have played that match at 1 o'clock and it wouldn't have made any difference in time. I don't know what the reason was for it.
But for now, we have to take what is front of us and get on with it. The most important thing for Donegal is to keep the discipline and keep playing to the final whistle. They have been warned with what happened between Cavan and Monaghan and Cavan and Down. Donegal must not take the foot off the pedal.

HURLERS
I want to wish Mickey McCann and the Donegal hurlers all the best in the final of the Nickey Rackard Cup. They put in a top class performance last week to defeat Tyrone and will need to do the same against Mayo. It's great that they get to play in Croke Park and this time their game doesn't clash with the senior footballers so we will be able to watch both games on Sunday.
Well done also to the Donegal Ladies who travelled and fulfilled their remaining championship fixture against Waterford on Saturday and showed in winning well how unlucky they were in the previous game against Dublin not to qualify for the semi-final.
Finally, I want to wish Declan Bonner, the players and the management team all the best on Sunday. It is a big prize but Donegal are well capable of taking home the Anglo Celt.

Brian McEniff was in conversation with Peter Campbell

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