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All-Ireland Championship: No substitute for quality on Donegal bench: Gallagher

By John Campbell

Donegal are prepared to maximise their substitutes when they meet Dublin on Sunday in the All-Ireland football semi-final.

The strength of the north-west county’s bench was underlined in the quarter-final win over Kildare when the experienced Christy Toye drilled in a goal having been on the pitch for only 20 seconds, while another replacement, Dermot ‘Brick’ Molloy, fired over two important points.

And Eamon McGee deployed his vast experience to good effect when he was pitched into the defence for the struggling Paddy McGrath after just 26 minutes.

It’s hardly surprising then that manager Jim McGuinness and his assistant Rory Gallagher are placing a strong emphasis on the part they believe that substitutes can play against the Dubs.

“It has been proven in the championship so far just how important substitutes can be. Look at the impact Paul Galvin made for Kerry last weekend,” points out Gallagher.

“For the first time this year you might say we had something approaching a full-strength squad for the game against Cavan and we would like to think that we have a strong panel overall.

“Given the way we play it can be hard for guys to sustain this pace and it’s important that we should avail of fresh legs.”

Yet even though they have been winning games consistently this year Gallagher believes that Donegal must still work on improving their overall level of performance.

“There are always things to be worked on — that’s the first thing that Kerry admitted after they beat Mayo,” he points out.

While Donegal have cover in most positions, there is a feeling that they will need a big input from their more experienced players if they are to win.

Paul Durcan, Rory Kavanagh, Karl Lacey, Neil McGee, Michael Hegarty, Michael Murphy and Colm McFadden have been part of the fabric of the side for some time and Gallagher believes that their craft and guile will be crucial against a Dublin outfit which is imbued with pace and flair as well as a liberal dash of steel and resolve.

When McGuinness took over as manager surprise was expressed when he retained a high proportion of the old guard, but as things have turned out the feeling is that they have perhaps adapted best to the system which the Donegal boss has implemented.

Gallagher’s input into Donegal’s renaissance has been significant in several respects but he makes it clear that, just like the volatile Stock Market, past performance is no guarantee of future gains.

“Dublin will have taken a lot of confidence from that win over Tyrone but then again I suppose we could point to the fact that we have beaten Tyrone too,” says former Fermanagh ace Gallagher.

“Yet what happened in those two games will have no relevance in the context of Sunday’s game.

“This is a completely new challenge for each side.”

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