When it comes to calling a spade a shovel, RTE ‘The Sunday Game’ pundit Joe Brolly tends to leave those who might mince their words wallowing in his slipstream.
And when he, to all intents and purposes, contemptuously proclaimed that Donegal “have only about 17 players altogether” it was seen as a caustic assessment calculated to raise hackles in the All-Ireland champions’ camp.
Yet Brolly’s apparent broadside is actually endorsed by the Donegal management — but with a significant proviso.
In masterminding the thunder charge to the Anglo-Celt and ‘Sam’ trophies in a memorable odyssey last year, Jim McGuinness did indeed deploy no more than 17 players in writing one of the most historic chapters in the county’s sporting history.
But now all fingers are crossed that gaelic football’s overlords can again benefit from what selector Maxie Curran refers to as “a generous rub of the green.”
Brolly’s clinical analysis of Donegal’s resources, far from incurring ire in the north west territory, has merely served to ferment the hope that injuries will once again be conspicuous by their absence as a championship campaign fuelled by rich promise is launched.
“Joe might have appeared to be having a cut at us but he was more or less on the button,” conceded Curran. “The fact of the matter is that we got a generous rub of the green particularly in the closing stages of the All-Ireland series when we had no real injury concerns and this undoubtedly played a big part in our success, there’s no doubt about that.”
But can McGuinness’s men be as lucky this time round given that question marks surround the ability of key players Mark McHugh and Karl Lacey to start in Sunday’s shoot-out with Tyrone?
“That’s the big one,” mused Curran. “We will have to wait and see. Slowly but surely we have been getting players back from knocks they picked up in club games and from delayed treatment they had for injuries they had previously been carrying.
“You can’t expect your luck to hold out forever but any team with serious aspirations of success definitely needs to get the odd smile from lady luck.”
Curran’s dissection of Donegal’s limited manpower last term makes interesting reading. Neil McGee played for 90 seconds against Tyrone, his brother Eamon missed the Ulster final against Down and skipper Michael Murphy was an absentee in the provincial preliminary round tie against Cavan.
“We had all hands on deck for the All-Ireland quarter-final, semi-final and final, the mood within the side was brilliant and with no injury distractions there was a total focus on capturing ‘Sam’,” said Curran.
McGuinness is likely to delay his team selection possibly until as late as Sunday morning in order to give McHugh and Lacey maximum time in which to be “in perfect shape” as Curran puts it.
“Obviously this is an enormous game against Tyrone and you can’t be taking chances with players. We have not really shown our full hand this year but if at all possible we would like to do that on Sunday,” added Curran.