The utter dejection on the face of Donegal manager John Joe Doherty said it all at MacCumhaill Park, Ballybofey yesterday.
For the second year in succession he had watched his side fall at home in their opening game in the Ulster senior football Championship and it was almost too much for the former All Ireland winning defender to take in.
If Antrim’s coup at Ballybofey last year was humiliating, then yesterday’s setback after extra-time against Down might have been cloaked in more courage but was still nonetheless a bitter pill to swallow.
“I’m desperately disappointed,” sighed Doherty, “What can I say? Down held out to win in the end but to be honest we had the good start we needed and we were moving well.
“The two early goals we got were a decided bonus and we should have been able to push on from there.”
The personable Glencolmcille man certainly did not go in search of excuses for his team’s subsequent demise, either.
He said: “Down got on top in midfield and I had brought off Neil Gallagher as I wanted to move Kevin Cassidy in there. But Benny Coulter coming out into the middle was a big boost for Down and they made the most of this although I still thought that we had enough possession even in the closing stages. The game started to go well for Down as the second half wore on and they certainly kept up the tempo in extra-time.”
And Doherty sounded a warning to the more senior citizens in his side when he said: “I felt that our younger players acquitted themselves very creditably. They did well in the circumstances and maybe this is the way to go.”
Certainly some of the Donegal players seemed to tire in the closing phase of the game and Doherty may well decide to review his panel in advance of the All Ireland Qualifiers. But he was certainly not too keen on even discussing Donegal’s chances in this competition in the aftermath of the game.
“I’m not even thinking about it at the minute — I’m just gutted by what has happened. We had prepared well for this game and I felt that we were in with a big chance. But Down lasted the distance and you can’t argue with that,” added Doherty.