Belfast Telegraph

Donegal desperately needs the Colm McFadden of old

By Declan Bogue

It was known as 'Sick Boy's Unifying Theory of Life.' Lying there in a public park, sharing an air rifle, Simon 'Sick Boy' Williamson lectured Mark Renton, two of the main characters in 'Trainspotting', on his great thought process.

Sick Boy says: "Well, at one point you've got it. Then you lose it. And it's gone forever. In all walks of life.

"Georgie Best, for example, had it. Lost it. Or David Bowie, or Lou Reed... Charlie Nicholas, David Niven, Malcolm McLaren, Elvis Presley...".

Having watched the Donegal v Armagh game back, we wonder has Colm McFadden fallen into the same category?

By the time Donegal reached the All-Ireland semi-final in 2012, he had already scored 3-23. This year, he has weighed in with a mere 0-9, with two points from play. Against Derry, he failed to score at all.

Consider this. On Sunday, he made a total of 12 plays. He linked the play three times. He kicked two frees and he punched the ball over the bar when faced with a wall of defenders in the goalmouth.

He drew a free against his marker Finian Moriarty that Michael Murphy converted after it was moved forward for dissent.

But he dropped a free and a shot from play short. He kicked two horrible, uncharacteristic wides. When in a foot race for the ball he fouled Moriarty twice.

Another time, Frank McGlynn played the ball in his direction and he could not untangle himself from Moriarty's clutches to get free.

By the 57th minute, he was taken off for Darach O'Connor, with Donegal 0-12 to 0-9 in the lead.

This week, Donegal manager Jim McGuinness told local media that: "We will be doing everything in our power to get over the line," against Dublin in the All-Ireland semi-final. His work starts with McFadden.

His loss of form can perhaps be traced back to the Ulster final of last year. That day, Monaghan defender Drew Wylie stuck to the basics of defending, obeying the most important rule – keep the attacker on his weak foot.

Every time McFadden got possession, Wylie ushered him onto his right side. It kept him scoreless from play.

Donegal's, and McFadden's, form improved during this year's National League, but it must be stressed that they were operating in Division Two. The St Michael's man scored a goal in each of his first three games, but after that his influence began to wane.

In the first round of the Championship, Dermot McBride held him entirely scoreless. In the Ulster semi-final, Justin Crozier kept him to two points, one from play despite their 13-point win.

Once again he was held scoreless from play against Wylie and Moriarty provided him with a wretched afternoon on Saturday, with one fisted point from play.

It has been said that McGuinness never substitutes McFadden because of what he brings to dead ball situations and that's almost true.

In 2012 he was taken off for Dermot Molloy in the dying stages of the cakewalk against Derry, and in the All-Ireland semi-final against Cork for Christy Toye.

The only time he had been replaced before in a crunch situation was for Toye against Kildare in 2011, though it should be stressed that he re-appeared in extra-time.

It was highly unlikely that selector Damian Diver was going to ruminate on the woes of McFadden after the game, instead staying that: "Colm is a very important player for Donegal. He didn't miss a free in the Ulster final and he didn't miss one today.

"For kicking frees alone you'd want him in there."

Naturally, he didn't bring up the free McFadden had on 13 minutes, which he only got as far as the 14 metre line, dropping bafflingly short into the hands of Charlie Vernon.

He did, however, bring up a good point when asked if McFadden was lacking confidence, saying: "I don't think so, no. When Michael (Murphy) is further out the field he is inside and getting the best man-marker, and that's not a great place."

The 15 wides that Donegal hit on Saturday distorts the picture of the game. Had they scored even a third of them, then they would have been in their customary comfortable position, with the platform of an exceptional Neil Gallagher performance in midfield.

When Michael Murphy called a team meeting after the defeat last year to Mayo, he had to stop a number of players from retiring. One of them surely had to be McFadden.

One has to wonder that if Mayo won that quarter-final by a respectable margin of two points, rather than a whopping 16, would he have been back?

As things stand, they need a transformed McFadden to play Dublin. That's the challenge for Donegal over the next 18 days.

Belfast Telegraph

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