Former Fermanagh ace Rory Gallagher, now No 2 to Jim McGuinness in Donegal, described the Ulster champions’ National League clash with Kildare back in March as “a war of attrition.”
That ended all square with Donegal landing 0-8 and Kildare scoring 1-5.
Donegal went on to gain promotion to Division One prior to landing the provincial title while Kieran McGeeney’s side were singularly unfortunate to lose out in the Leinster semi-final against Dublin (1-12 to 1-11) before stitching together impressive qualifier wins over Laois, Meath and Derry.
In those three games Kildare scored 5-46, the equivalent of 1-17 per match.
When the teams renew their rivalry in the All-Ireland quarter-finals at Croke Park tomorrow, Kildare’s thirst for scores will present Donegal with their stiffest defensive test of the year.
The Ulster men are perceived as having placed a strong emphasis on maintaining an effective blockade during games, but Gallagher refutes any suggestion that they are consumed with defence.
“We have been scoring too. We are not a one-dimensional team. We have got some big scores and we will certainly hope to be on target as often as we can tomorrow,” insists Killybegs-based Gallagher who won an All-Ireland club medal with St Gall’s last year.
Skipper Michael Murphy and Colm McFadden, a brother-in-law of manager McGuinness, carry most of Donegal’s scoring hopes.
They will depend on midfielders Rory Kavanagh, Kevin Cassidy and Anthony Thompson to win the break ball that will be essential to their team’s hopes of success while full-back Neil McGee and the versatile Karl Lacey will shore up a defence that has proven difficult to penetrate.
In the Ulster final Derry only scored eight points and just four of those came from two starting forwards, a measure of Donegal’s sharply restrictive policy.
Kildare’s rearguard has been rather more porous. But their front line has been amassing scores while still shooting an inordinate number of wides, an indication of the control they have had in games.
Yet the Lily Whites are vulnerable to counter-attacks and prone to surrender possession too easily. If those flaws surface tomorrow, they will be punished by a hungry Donegal outfit.