Donegal's dream dies with a whimper but Mac’s defiant to the end
Not for the first time this year Donegal manager Jim McGuinness found himself obliged to make a spirited defence of his team’s style of play in the aftermath of their exit from the All-Ireland title race at the hands of Dublin yesterday.
But McGuinness’s robust response to the criticism which has cascaded down on his side is unlikely to gain him much sympathy in the wake of a game that was labeled by one television pundit as “stinking rotten”.
“I suppose at 0-6 to 0-3 we probably had a chance to go on and win the game, but in fairness Dublin came back very, very strongly and I suppose at the end they deserved to win,” admitted McGuinness.
“Obviously, they are very, very well advanced in their conditioning and in their development as a team, and it kind of came through at the end. They wore us down but overall we'd be very happy with the year we've had.”
In a strong surge of loyalty to his players, some of whom could have played their last game for the county yesterday, McGuinness stoically sought out the positives.
“The boys have become competitive again; they've put a lot of pride into the county,” he added.
“A lot of people were very excited for the last number of weeks and that has been missing for a few years.
“The players have National League medals and Ulster championship medals. In this game against Dublin we were mixing it with one of the best teams in the country so we're happy with where we're at in relation to our development.
“This time last year we were trying to get the team winning games and we don't make any apologies for this.
Our game plan was based on trying to beat Dublin. I would prefer to be competitive and to be winning championships and winning medals than to be going down in a blaze of glory like Donegal have done for the last 19 years.”
While the GAA as a sporting body certainly did not enjoy a blaze of glory yesterday, Dublin manager Pat Gilroy was diplomatic and courteous in assessing his side’s renaissance after they had appeared to play a big part in installing Donegal in the driving seat.
“We had to stick to our task in a game that was made very difficult for us by Donegal. We found it very hard in the first half especially, but I thought my players then showed great composure and patience in seeing the game out,” said Gilroy.
“Obviously the dismissal of Diarmuid Connolly was a blow but gaps were starting to appear in the Donegal defence just before that and we were subsequently able to take good advantage of them.
“For a lot of the older guys this was their fourth semi-final and having lost the other three they did not want to leave this one behind them.”