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Donegal look to up game before final fling

By Declan Bogue

As the Donegal players gathered for their recovery session on Monday evening, they dealt with a few housekeeping issues.

Sunday had been an exceptional day, they had beaten Cork by a lot more than the final scoreline suggests and they took time to mingle with supporters. They enjoyed the glow of victory and knew exactly what lay ahead of them.

And then they parked it. While the team are quite happy to look on from a distance at the antics and carnival that has already engulfed the county, their job is much different.

“It's a great position to be in,” says manager Jim McGuinness. “We will look at ourselves this week and then the focus will move on to the opposition and back to ourselves, probably. We will leave no stone unturned in the next four weeks.”

It may seem puzzling, but McGuinness confesses that he would rather have been playing the second semi-final. However, there is a flip-side to that as he reveals: “These fellas have four of the best weeks of their lives ahead of them.

“Our training will have to go to a new level again, we’ll have to try and improve in every aspect of our play again. After that you have to just trust them to go out and do the job. It’s the way we have approached all the games in the last two years and you have to give them that bit of empowerment then to go and win the game.”

The last time Donegal were |in an All-Ireland final, Mark McHugh (right) was only a baby on the bus, in the arms of his father Martin as it returned home with Sam Maguire on board. Naturally, he recalls nothing of the moment, but growing up with a famous father is an ideal situation for preparing yourself for the next month. “It's going to be brilliant,” says McHugh.

“People say it changes your lives and hopefully it will change ours; if we win it, it will change our lives even more. I have no recollection of anything in '92. We will take it all in and grasp it, and grasp the atmosphere around the place and the hype around the county and enjoy it, but we will still focus on the game at hand.”

Not that a team needs any motivation, but McHugh revealed that it was the empty feeling of defeat left from last season's semi-final defeat to Dublin that drove Donegal to push on in the second half.

When referee David Coldrick threw the ball up after the restart, they flung everything at Cork. In a dazzling three-minute spell Karl Lacey, Frank McGlynn and Colm McFadden tagged on unanswered points to go four up.

It's been a feature of Donegal games this season, their dominance in the third quarter of matches, but McHugh maintains that it's not something they have targeted.

He explains: “We have our gameplan that the manager has set up and we try to implement that as much as we can through the whole game. It's not that we specifically pick the third quarter to push on any extra.”

He continues: “[At] the start of the campaign we were maybe busy sussing out teams to see what they were going to do, we have started to take the game from the start and compete from the start.” Lacey's point was his fourth of the campaign and McGlynn's took his Championship tally to 1-3. It's all part of a gameplan that is constantly in flux and challenging perceptions of who should be doing the scoring.

“We worked hard over the winter on our offensive game and we tried it out in the league,” explains McHugh.

“It just clicked when it came to the Championship, just at the right time. It's working out alright for us and we are going to have to work harder and push

on for the final because whoever is in the All-Ireland final is not going to let it go handy. We are going to do everything in our power, everyone in that dressing room will do everything in their power to take an All-Ireland back to Donegal.”

With All-Ireland fever set to grip the county, McGuinness simply wants his side to focus on lifting Sam.

“If the supporters want to go crazy let them go crazy,” he adds. “We know exactly what we want and what we want to achieve in our performance and that’s what is important to us, regardless of what is going on in the background and how much the thing runs away with itself in the next four weeks.

“For us we’ll have a very clearly defined goal and goals for this day four weeks. It will be up to the boys then to try and go out and execute that.”

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