“It still takes a bit of getting used to, it is a phenomenal achievement for the county; but achievements are one thing – at the business end of the season, silverware is what it’s all about.
“Such was the dominant, swashbuckling display Jim’s troops delivered against Dublin in the semi final, that it seems a mere formality of beating a team with lesser capabilities. Finals, however, are rarely easily won; even after Donegal’s incredible start to the 2012 final they still had to fight hard in the second half for their ultimate reward.
“Indeed that game may play a role this Sunday; while Jim and the players generally don’t look back at the past too much, McGuinness is on record as saying that he felt his players deviated from the plan against Mayo two years ago – he will not want a repeat this time around. The Dublin match was a lesson in patience and in knowing that what has been laid out for them pre-match by the management team will lead them to victory if executed correctly.
“Kerry are a lesser team than Dublin but one key difference is that they have a much more competent and tactically aware manager. Eamon Fitzmaurice is a shrewd operator and him and his team deserve respect. Donegal’s big advantage on Sunday is that they know their game plan and will not change; therefore the onus is on Kerry to rise to the challenge and come up with something that could unlock the door. The problem is that many teams have tried but most have failed.
“Two things need to happen for Kerry to win – firstly Donegal have to underperform and secondly Kerry have to dig their trenches and get down and dirty. They have to try to repeat what Armagh almost did in August and what Monaghan did last year, beat Donegal at their own game.
“Easier said than done of course – Kerry don’t play as sophisticated a defensive system as Donegal. While they have become better under Fitzmaurice at bringing bodies back and moving from defence to attack quickly, they are not in Donegal’s league at this aspect of play. Four weeks of work leading up to the final doesn’t match up to four years of system and skills repetition under McGuinness.
“I attended a wedding in Kerry last week and as usual with the Kingdom, they’re not short on confidence. While most supporters are surprised to see their team in the final, it doesn’t mean they expect anything other than a win. History and tradition counts for a lot down south but it doesn’t matter a thing to Jim and his men. They’ve torn up the script over the past few years, they’ve abolished the notion that the superpowers are untouchable and they’ve taken their place at the top table as if it is their right.
“Ryan McHugh’s stunning display last time out will mean that he comes in for close attention and he may well be man-marked. If he is, he could act as a decoy because with so much attention on him it will leave room for the likes of Leo McLoone, Odhran MacNiallais and Christy Toye. Toye will likely get the nod to start and while Patrick McBrearty may well be named on the first fifteen his impact role sub might be utilised again as it was to such devastating effect in the Ulster Final and in the last four encounter with the Dubs.
“Paul Durcan will again be a key figure with Kerry loading midfield to try and disrupt his service to Neil Gallagher and on occasion Michael Murphy. The way Kerry use their centre forward, Johnny Buckley, though may cause problems for themselves. Buckley generally drops to midfield and plays as part of a three across the middle with Anthony Maher and David Moran. If he does this on Sunday, he will leave a Donegal man spare to attack from deep – music to the ears of Frank McGlynn or Anthony Thompson. Karl Lacey meanwhile will possibly be assigned marking duties on Declan O’Sullivan should the veteran take to the field.
“At the Donegal Daily preview night during the week, Mickey Harte commented on how Dublin thought they had cracked the code with their long range shooting but once this thought manifested itself in their minds the game went away from them. The question is can the code be cracked at all?
“Regardless of what Kerry do, or any other team for that matter, if Donegal perform to their maximum or anywhere near it, they win. That leads to its own pressures but McGuinness is a master at having his players in the right frame of mind and for that reason Donegal are favourites on Sunday and rightly so.
“It is going to be a hugely emotional and special day for everyone privileged to be there and for the thousands more watching or listening at home or abroad. All we can ask of our boys is to give it their all and we’ll be proud of them. They owe us nothing – but we’ll take a second All Ireland in three years all the same!
“Best of luck to both squads – we’re all with you, we’re all behind you. Ádh mór lads.Tags: