Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 18 September 2014

Monaghan lost the tactical battle and Ulster dream

Gripping: Dick Clerkin keeps up with Neil McGee
Monaghan boss Malachy O'Rourke

The blanket defence certainly hasn't gone away after yesterday's Ulster Final. As expected both sides set up defensively and there is no doubt that Jim McGuinness won the tactical battle.

Donegal were determined to make up for the disappointment of losing to Monaghan in last season's final and they got all their match-ups on the day right. Eamonn McGee did a great job on Kieran Hughes but Monaghan got it all wrong isolating the full forward on his own.

A long ball into one forward was never going to work as Donegal were always able to get men back and at times there were as many as six or seven defenders there against one attacker.

Even with a two-man full forward line it was always going to be difficult for Monaghan as you need your halfbacks and midfield driving through in support and that wasn't there yesterday and, for once, Malachy O'Rourke got it badly wrong.

Donegal should have been four or five in front at half time, as they outworked Monaghan all over the field. There was one time in the first half when Dessie Mone burst forward from the half back line and in front of him there were 15 Donegal players so there was simply no way through.

Michael Murphy deserves enormous credit for Donegal's win. He is one of the top forwards in the country but he sacrificed himself for the team, playing in such a deep role that on one occasion he won possession in his own full back line.

That epitomised everything about this Donegal display, it was all about the team and not individuals and that's what won them the day.

Paddy McBrearty, for instance, didn't start but he was superb when he came on. He hasn't kicked on from a couple of years ago and McGuinness perhaps left him on the bench to give him a kick up the backside. It worked a treat. His link play with Kilcar club mate Ryan McHugh was a joy to behold and his three superb points were crucial to the outcome.

McHugh has taken over the mantle from his brother Mark while McNiallais is another big plus for this Donegal side, kicking three vital points today. He was on Darren Hughes and he had him on the back foot all afternoon. The Hughes, Conor McManus and Dick Clerkin were all key players for Monaghan this season but none of them functioned at all yesterday and credit for that has to go to Donegal.

That was their third title in four years and that is some achievement when you consider how difficult it is to win Ulster. They knew their best route was through the front door as a lot of their players have been about for a number of years.

Donegal and Dublin will meet in the semi-final if both win their next games and Donegal will relish that. Dublin have been playing some great football but they will be coming up against a side that will be very difficult to break down.

It will be tough for Monaghan to bounce back. With key players the other side of 30 and it will be tough for them to regroup and they will do well to make the quarter finals.

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