Donegal bagged their first win of 2017 on Sunday as Eoin McHugh’s point in added time secured a precious victory over Roscommon.
At the newly-blessed Dr Hyde Park, where Roscommon were returning after a year of redevelopment works, McHugh’s point gave Donegal a 0-16 to 2-9 win.
- Murphy will take lead role at midfield
It seems as if the debate on Michael Murphy’s positioning on the field will be endless, but given the dearth of bluechip options in the engine room, the Glenswilly man appears likely to lead the way from midfield.
Pictured above is Michael Murphy setting Donegal off on an attack. Picture by Máirtín Mac Crábhagáin
The departures of Rory Kavanagh, Christy Toye, Leo McLoone and Odhrán Mac Niallais and the injury that is preventing Neil Gallagher from lining out mean that Gallagher has been forced to deploy his skipper at centrefield.
It’s not that Donegal are in anyway short or devoid of options here but, as Murphy showed on Sunday, he’s a class apart.
Gallagher described his captain as a ‘colossus’ in the wake of Sunday’s game when Murphy pulled Donegal through a tight contest.
As so often in the past, others may have beat the drum at times, but it was Murphy who was calling the tune.
A shame, it may be, that a man with his edge-of-the-square presence can’t line out at 14 all the time, but needs must and his talents are such that Donegal can flourish with Murphy playing the quarter-back’s role.
- Donegal must tighten up
A week after conceding 2-17 against Kerry, Donegal shipped 2-9 on Sunday at Dr Hyde Park. But for Mark Anthony McGinley making a brilliant save to deny Ronan Stack late in the game, Donegal would’ve been breached – and beaten – another time.
The manner of the first Roscommon goal, when McGinley’s attempted kick-out to Mark McHugh was intecepted by Ciaran Murtagh, who applied the finish, will have left goalkeeper and manager tearing hair from their scalps.
Although Donegal did shoot back to win, via Eoin McHugh’s point in added-time, they might well have left Roscommon town cursing their concessions again – and, in time, it will be something that Gallagher and his management team will aim to address.
- O’Reilly set to come of age and shine
Startling as it may be, Martin O’Reilly is now in his sixth year as a Donegal senior football. He often had a frustrating time of it after being ushered into the squad by Jim McGuinness in the winter of 2011.
Injury didn’t help in the early days and upon getting the manager’s job, Rory Gallagher dispatched the Sean MacCumhaills man to train with the under-21s, in a bid to improve his all-round game.
A man with a real hurler’s heart, O’Reilly has showed good promise previously, but last summer he delivered a big display in the Ulster semi-final replay win over Monaghan. He kicked two points on a day when he was charged with marking Karl O’Connell, who had been the pick of Monaghan’s bunch in the drawn encounter.
O’Reilly got on the scoresheet against Kerry and an intelligent, decisive run won the penalty netted by Michael Murphy. On Sunday, he shone again, scoring three points and looks to be a man now ready to play a lead role
- A win was vital on so many levels
Donegal needed to win on Sunday or they’d already be having their toes tagged for the relegation morgue.
Three wins is the accepted minimum for survival. Last year, Donegal reached a League semi-final with three wins while Cork were relegated on the same number of points.
Roscommon now have two defeats from two while victory was vital to boost Donegal’s survival hopes.
Winning away from home, too, was a big fillip for a Donegal side that had won only three times in their last 21 games away from home.
And for a new squad emerging, winning in Division 1 could do wonders for collective confidence.
- Dubs next – and sparks could fly
There will be all sorts of sub-plots abounding when the Dubs roll into Sean MacCumhaill Park on February 26.
On their last visit to the Finnside venue, in 2013, Dublin bagged a late draw and Paul Mannion’s point relegated Donegal.
The day is remembered, though, for the subsequent public spat after it emerged that Donegal forward Patrick McBrearty had been bitten by a Dublin player.
A three-game ban was proposed for Dublin player Kevin O’Brien, but he was subsequently cleared by the Central Competitions Controls Committee (CCCC).
A year-and-a-bit later Donegal caused one of the great GAA upsets when they lowered Dublin’s colours in a gripping All-Ireland semi-final in 2014.
Dublin are unbeaten in their last 31 League and Championship games since March 2015, while Donegal will be out to preserve a 15-game unblemished streak in Ballybofey.
This game certainly won’t go under the radar.Tags: