Retirements after exit could hurt Gallagher's Donegal
Donegal boss Rory Gallagher may have a battle on his hands to keep a number of his squad from opting for retirement after their heavy loss to Mayo in Saturday's All-Ireland quarter-final.
Two goals in five minutes either side of half-time gave Mayo an insurmountable lead against the team that beat them in the 2012 All-Ireland final, and brought an end to a schedule of games that - in fairness to Donegal - was tougher than any other county had to go through this season.
With Aidan O'Shea resuming his new role at full-forward, he clearly relished the physical tussle against marker Neil McGee. However, it was clear from early on that he had the Gweedore man in bother and Gallagher confirmed that McGee had twinged his hamstring early in the game.
O'Shea took delivery of a Tom Parsons' ball on the stroke of half-time, fending off challenges to stroke the ball to the corner of the net.
Four minutes into the second half, Seamus O'Shea played a ball into Cillian O'Connor and he set Lee Keegan through, whose shoot looped over Paul Durcan to leave the score 2-7 to 0-6 to the Connacht champions, who now face Dublin in the semi-final.
O'Shea's contribution had a major impact of the game, Gallagher agreed.
"Aidan O'Shea is a top player, he is going to get his moments in games, there's no doubt about that. Neil was doing very well up until that (the goal). Even at that, going into the game you would be doing very well keeping him completely out of it. It left us a wee bit stretched at the back," he said.
When asked if it was time to begin an infusion of some promising under-age teams of recent years, he said: "Coming down the road, we have all been on the road a long time, the boys in particular have been on the road a long time, a number of them.
"We came back this year with the very clear intention of doing our best, which was to get back to an All-Ireland final and take it from there.
"When you have had the success we have had for the last few years, you want to be back in a final. Ultimately that's what we would be interested in. It just depends on whether people feel it's a road they can go down and they can reach again. Obviously, we would hope that everybody would (stay on), but time will tell."
Among those under question now are goalkeeper Paul Durcan, Karl Lacey, Christy Toye and Eamonn McGee.
Asked if the programme of games caught up with his side, the Belleek native answered that things might have been different had they been able to convert more of the 15 wides that will haunt them from the Ulster final against Monaghan.
"It would have been ideal to go the front door. There's no doubt about it, it would have given us that wee bit of breathing space to get the bodies right. But we didn't put the chances away against Monaghan and that door was closed to us," he said.
DONEGAL: P Durcan; P McGrath, N McGee, E McGee; R McHugh, K Lacey, F McGlynn; N Gallagher, C Toye 0-1; H McFadden, O MacNiallais, M McHugh; P McBrearty, M Murphy 0-8, 4f, 1'45', C McFadden
SUBS: M McElhinney for Toye (h-time), A Thompson 0-1 for N McGee (37), L McLoone 0-1 for MacNiallais (39)
Yellow cards: Durcan (43), E McGee (50), McLoone (61), H McFadden (63)
Black cards: 0 Red cards: 0
MAYO: D Clarke; G Cafferkey, T Cunniffe, K Higgins 0-1; L Keegan 1-2, D Vaughan, C Boyle; S O'Shea, B Moran; D O'Connor, T Parsons, K McLoughlin 0-2; C O'Connor 0-3, 2f, A O'Shea 1-0, J Doherty 0-3
SUBS: C Barrett for Cunniffe (34), R Hennelly for Clarke (H-time), A Moran 0-1 for B Moran (61), A Freeman 0-1 for S O'Shea (65), K Keane for Cafferkey (70)
Yellow cards: Doherty (52m)
Black cards: Vaughan (53m, replaced by Durcan)
Red cards: Keane (72m)
Referee: David Gough (Meath)