As the celebrations settle down after Donegal’s compromising Ulster-final victory, Declan Bonner and his backroom team will quickly analyse the seventy minutes of free-flowing football that was on show in Clones.
Few times has an Ulster-final been won by such a comfortable margin. Donegal performed yesterday in a manner filled with confidence and guile, disposing their opponents with relative ease.
Picture: Declan Bonner celebrates Donegal’s Ulster success. Picture by Evan Logan
The Tír Chonaill men would have known what to expect from Fermanagh given their two outings in Ulster before the final. Even the league campaign from the Erne men gave a representation of the style that Rory Gallagher was going to implement.
It would be similar to the system that received heavy criticism in his time as Donegal manager but up until yesterday it was grinding results.
For Donegal the key issue entering the game was how they would break down Gallagher’s defensive set-up. Although Bonner’s side had a slightly cagey start, once they managed to play their way into the game it spelled trouble for Fermanagh.
Donegal would have known from the Monaghan game that attacking the central part of the field would play right into the hands of Fermanagh. For both goals Donegal positioned their most agile players beyond the ball in wide positions and use their pace to get at Fermanagh.
Indeed for the two goals it ended up being Ryan McHugh. But in other instances where goal chances were created and not executed it was Eoghan ‘Bán’ Gallagher, Jamie Brennan and even Paddy McGrath menacing in behind.
This completely exposed the lack of pace that Fermanagh had within their back line and ripped their plan to cover central areas to shreds.
Kane Connor was an example of this, with the Fermanagh corner-back getting subbed just after the half-hour mark. He had already received a booking and Gallagher knew that it would be dangerous to leave him on the field with the speed that Donegal were showing up front.
Much has been talked in the past few years about shooting positions and shot selection. Donegal kicked multiple points from the wide areas yesterday, but the way that these chances were created was what was impressive.
Ball carriers weren’t afraid to drive forward into the middle sector of Fermanagh’s defence where Gallagher had tried to ensure his side would create turnovers. But this wasn’t to be the case as Donegal always had players in wide positions available to take the ball and get a comfortable shot away.
Blockers running forward were imposed to stop Fermanagh men from getting near the kicker which constantly allowed kickers to set up before they unleashed shots.
Donegal did score some terrific efforts from wide, but the likes of Ciaran Thompson, Michael Murphy and Odhrán MacNiallais regularly find their range from these distances. In that aspect the Fermanagh style played into Donegal’s hands, whereas Monaghan struggled to find their range from such areas of the field in the semi-final.
On kick-outs Donegal pushed right up on Fermanagh at every given opportunity which left goalkeeper Patrick Cadden with few options to pick out. Eamon McGee suggested on the GAA hour last Thursday that Gallagher would probably put little preparation into kick-outs and urge his keeper to go long.
McGee’s inkling was completely correct with it being another aspect of the game that went in Donegal’s favour as they won break after break due to the complete overload of players that were situated in that middle sector.
Shaun Patton was once again excellent in goal and with Fermanagh never really pushing up, the St Eunan’s man executed most of his kicks to perfection.
Donegal’s victory was planned out almost expertly with Fermanagh never really looking like they could create a clear-cut goal chance. Although this is a young team, it’s clear that Donegal football is progressing and doing so in a manner that is easy on the eye.
The squad has a lot of developing that is yet to be done but the foundations are in place for this team to achieve major success in the coming years.Tags: