Donegal hit back but Jim McGuinness voices impact injury fears
Donegal 0-14 Laois 0-8: Something gnawed away at Jim McGuinness's mind all week.
Since they relinquished their hold on Ulster, Donegal set about rebuilding the bricks and they returned to winning ways with a six-point win at a claustrophobic Carrick-on-Shannon.
McGuinness had something to get off his mind, though.
Mark McHugh had a watching brief here after being forced out of the Ulster final. A heavy collision from Monaghan's Stephen Gollogly resulted in McHugh spending two nights in hospital.
McGuinness had six days to reflect and the Donegal boss gave one of those lengthy, thoughtful responses that have become his calling card.
"We're in a very dangerous position here," said McGuinness in reference to the increased 'attention' turned up on his players.
"I fear that something is going to happen and my biggest fear is a spinal injury or a neck injury.
"We have to create a situation where we feel that it's OK to put people out onto the pitch. There is a difference between physicality and burst ear drums and serious leg injuries. That is where the danger element comes in.
"I played midfield for Donegal for years and, no matter how hard I shouldered anyone in my life, I never burst an eardrum, I never left anyone concussed and I didn't put a five-centimetre hole in anyone's leg.
"Mark McHugh's last week was our fourth concussion in three games. I imagine Munster or Leinster rugby wouldn't have that many.
"You don't want to have a situation where there is going to be a serious injury. I feel we're not far away from that happening."
McGuinness had demanded a response from his side – and got it here in a white hot atmosphere.
With Laois extremely defensive, just two points were posted inside the opening 22 minutes, Colm McFadden and Ross Munnelly swapping scores.
Donegal, with Frank McGlynn and Ryan McHugh excellent, led 0-5 to 0-1 at the interval, David Walsh, Michael Murphy, McFadden and the lively Patrick McBrearty all on the mark.
With Donal Kingston and Munnelly scoring a few excellent points, Laois made a real fist of it at times. When Munnelly brought the O'Moore men to within two points seven minutes from time, Donegal looked shaky.
They steadied the wobbles, though, and finished well. Full back Neil McGee got up for a score, while McFadden and McBrearty hit excellent points under intense pressure and the cherry was added by Leo McLoone in stoppage time.
Donegal were given a rousing reception from their big numbers in an 11,125 crowd.
McGuinness is back in Croke Park – and with the bit back between his teeth.
On the game itself, he said: "We had to re-evaluate and we did a very fair assessment of the game last week. We came to very fair and honest conclusions about last weekend. That served us well here. The best thing that ever happened us was a six day turnaround."
Justin McNulty has reached the end of his third year with Laois. It remains to be seen if the Armagh native will return for 2014.
He said: "I need to reflect and see if I'm the right man or if this is what's best for me going forward."
DONEGAL: P Durcan; E McGee, N McGee (0-1), A Thompson; Declan Walsh, F McGlynn, P McGrath; R Kavanagh, N Gallagher; David Walsh (0-1), M Murphy (0-2, 1f), R Bradley; P McBrearty (0-3), C McFadden (0-6, 4f), R McHugh. Subs: K Lacey for McGrath (54), M McElhinney for Bradley (66), Leo McLoone (0-1) for David Walsh (67), Daniel McLaughlin for Declan Walsh (70).
LAOIS: E Culliton; P Begley, M Timmons, P O'Leary; D Strong, K Lillis, P McMahon; P Clancy, J O'Loughlin; R Munnelly (0-4, 2f), B Sheehan, C Begley; C Meredith (0-1), D Kingston (0-2), E O'Carroll. Subs: C Boyle for Clancy (27), S Attride for O'Carroll (31), D Booth for Begley (43), David Conway (0-1) for O'Leary (52), Colm Kelly for Sheehan (67).
Referee: Marty Duffy (Sligo).