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McGuinness left unable to explain Donegal's lack of intensity

By Declan Bogue

It was an utterly deflated Jim McGuinness who took to the post-match soiree with members of the print media, taking son Mark Anthony along with him to put some words to the hurt.

Because Donegal are now wounded. Talk of legacy and all that will wait until the midweek columns but for now, it was nuts and bolts stuff. A few of them had been loose on the Donegal ship all year, but that big engine – namely Michael Murphy – had enough forward momentum to steer it along its path.

"We wanted to deliver a performance worthy of the occasion based on the work we had done and on the effort the boys had put in throughout the whole year," he began.

"We didn't get that performance. We looked tired and we looked lethargic. We didn't spark into our normal rhythm. Why that is, I don't know. We'll have to reflect on the game."

By the time the bus pulled into the team hotel last night he would already have had a handle on it. Their game is built on runners, on overlaps and feeding off the crowd's reaction, getting players from any position into dangerous places.

Yet, they did manage it in two spells, perversely when they had conceded goals. But it felt as though there was enormous effort expounded to claw back those three-pointers and then they thought their defensive web might ensnare enough of Kerry's belief system. Didn't happen.

McGuinness insisted: "We wanted to go at the opposition. Why did it have to be after conceding a goal? People have spoken about the goal we gave away with 'Papa' (Paul Durcan). We lost the game over 70 minutes based on our own performance level.

"All those things had an impact on the game, which they did, but I think if we were at ourselves and fully sharp then we would've been more competitive during the game. It didn't happen and that's the most disappointing thing."

And the failure to compete is what will sting McGuinness and his players.

He continued: "It was the one thing we wanted coming into the game, to have no regrets. But now we have to live with that fact that we didn't get anywhere near our performance level and we were within a whisker of sneaking a draw at the end of the game."

So why was their trademark intensity absent?

"I genuinely don't know," said McGuinness. "It's a big occasion, maybe that's one of the reasons. It's too early for me to say. I have to look at it, think about what we did in the lead-in to the game but I can't put my finger on it."

He won't be drawn on his future, though.

"I will take my time now and think about this. I did that last year and I did it the year before. I'll think about my own position, I'll think about the players and about the squad we have."

In terms of perception, McGuinness has already restored this present group of players from their 16-point hosing in last year's quarter-final. But there is a suspicion that for a lot of veterans, the journey ends now.

And with them, might go a unique football manager.

Belfast Telegraph

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