Belfast Telegraph

Friday 19 September 2014

Jim McGuinness pleased with Donegal's strength in depth

Tactical mind: Jim McGuinness switched his players around

The suggestion – and it has enjoyed considerable currency up until now, let it be said – that Donegal should not merit serious mention as possible candidates for the Ulster title can from today be consigned to the rubbish bin.

If Jim McGuinness's side did their straight from the shoulder talking on the pitch at Celtic Park in overcoming Derry yesterday, then the manager's fiery post-match message will strike a chord with those other sides figuring in the short-odds betting.

"The Ulster Championship is very important to Donegal. It's where we want to be. Without being disrespectful to the other provinces, you have to peak from the outset of the Ulster series, you can't hope to just get to a peak," rapped McGuinness.

"Our players and management take the Championship very seriously and while we are very happy to get over the line against Derry, we will now focus on our forthcoming semi-final."

Tyrone, Derry and Monaghan have all been cast as having a head start on Donegal in the title race and that perception has been largely based on the belief that McGuinness does not have the all-round playing resources necessary to mount a sustainable challenge for the Anglo Celt Cup.

But yesterday provided compelling evidence that the 2012 All-Ireland champions are not as bereft of reserve resources as some might think.

"We started Christy Toye because we knew we would get a good 35 minutes from him and we also wanted to hold Neil Gallagher back until we saw what course the game would take," pointed out McGuinness.

"The fact that we were able to bring on Neil and Martin McElhinney at half-time was a bonus. Martin started every league game for us but we knew that if we brought him on he would give us a big effort."

And McGuinness provided confirmation that he has lost none of his tactical acumen.

"We had played Michael Murphy in a deeper role in the first-half but when he went into full-forward, some very good passes were played into him which he won.

"He was also involved in some excellent off-loads. It also meant that Martin McElhinney was able to make an impact at midfield but some days you try things and they work and on other occasions they don't. Thankfully, they did this time," added McGuinness.

He had come to Celtic Park armed with his homework dossier, too.

"We knew from the analysis we had undertaken that Derry would play possession football. We had to be patient and then when we ourselves had the ball we had to be equally sure that we did not give it away. Derry continued to recycle the ball but I thought in the last 10 minutes we had a good deal of possession that we protected well," stated McGuinness.

"We will look forward now to an Ulster semi-final against either Antrim or Fermanagh and see where we go from there."

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