McGee aims to hold middle ground in bid for last four slot
Donegal midfield ace Jason McGee admits that he is still in awe of those of his team colleagues who can throw down five Ulster medals against his solitary provincial championship honour.
But he will get a golden opportunity when he lines out against Kerry tomorrow at Croke Park (4.00) to further underline that he is in Declan Bonner's line-up to stay.
Ostensibly he will be partnering Hugh McFadden in the central area but with the latter shouldering a hefty ration of duty as a sweeper, it's play-anywhere skipper Michael Murphy who is likely to stand shoulder to shoulder with McGee in striving to limit the influence of a partnership viewed as one of the best in the business just now.
David Moran and Shane Enright are not quite known for their poise or etiquette but when it comes to rolling up sleeves and burrowing painstakingly in trench warfare the Cork duo have few peers.
Moran all but ran the show for the Kingdom in that impressive win over Mayo (1-22 to 0-15) with Enright a willing ally whose previous experience in defence ensured that James Horan's side were denied any sort of sustained route map to the Kerry posts.
For McGee, this game is a seminal test of his aerial ability.
"Now that we have a match under our belts in the Super 8s with that win over Meath we know that we will be going up a level against Kerry, " he points out.
Declan Bonner's side have gained palpably in momentum and confidence as the championship season has unfurled but 21-year-old McGee is quick to point out that Kerry too will have gained in self-belief.
This, though, does not serve to defuse his sense of optimism going into the game.
"Our team is essentially a mix of old and new players and we have great faith in each other," he asserts.
Kerry's attack fired on all cylinders against Mayo with Sean O'Brien and David Clifford particularly impressive. With the imperious Moran offering a masterclass at midfield and Paul Geaney supplying his skills and craft, Peter Keane's side eventually cruised to victory.
Skipper Murphy, Ryan McHugh, Neil McGee, Patrick McBrearty and Jamie Brennan can again prove key figures as Donegal strive to secure their place in the last four but the loss of the injured Eoghan Ban Gallagher may be keenly felt.
Donegal will have to contain the wiles of O'Shea and Clifford in particular and maintain their discipline against a Kerry side noted for their breakaway raids, ability to score from distance and reputation for not surrendering the ball too easily.
Yet Shaun Patton's almost telepathic kick-outs, skipper Murphy's generalship and McGee's desire to impose his presence in the vital middle third could prove key factors in stamping Donegal's passport into the All-Ireland semi-finals.
Kerry vs Donegal
Croke Park, Sunday, 4.00pm