We caught glimpses of the new developments in Donegal’s play during the preliminary round against Cavan. On Saturday night they took it to another level.
Paddy McGrath came forward and clipped a point over from distance. Neil McGee was seen beyond midfield, lending a hand to the attacking play on more than one occasion. Frank McGlynn kicked a point any forward would be proud of. So too, Anthony Thompson.
Far from being the isolated figure he was in last years’ All-Ireland semi-final against Dublin, Colm McFadden had lots of company in attack.
“It’s good for the boys to get up and get a couple of points,” said McFadden, scorer of two frees and the second goal. “It takes the pressure off ourselves. We have been doing a lot of work on our attacking game.”
McFadden’s goal was a clear indication of that work. When Donegal broke from midfield, their attackers outnumbered the Derry defence.
Paddy McGrath showed maturity to unselfishly give McFadden the final pass before he slotted home with his right foot.
“He gave it at the right time. It left it easy enough for me to tap it in. Right foot too!
“It’s handy for scoring the goals now, but that’s about the height of it.”
With a hard-grafting display highlighted by a point, Frank McGlynn took home the Man of the Match award but gave an impression of serenity and quiet satisfaction, saying, “When you’re in the half-back line you’re encouraged to push up as much as possible. I’m enjoying that and I was lucky as the game went on that the game became a bit more open.
“The last day against Cavan, and today, there are chances to get forward so it seems to be working.
“It was one of the things they identified from last year that we needed to improve upon, so we’re happy enough with the way things are going so far.”
The energy of the Donegal players simply blew Derry away, but McGlynn felt it wasn’t as simple as it looked.
“We put a good emphasis on fitness and it’s working for us this year.
“The first half might have seemed a bit easier than it was. It was tough going and there were a lot of things in the first half that we needed to improve upon.
“Lucky enough in the second half we did improve and seemed to pull away.
“The goals came at good times for us, just before half-time and then shortly after half-time, which was a good boost.”
It won’t always be this easy for Donegal. Tyrone now lie in wait for a semi-final, with a grudge to address.
“They were very impressive against Armagh,” commented McGlynn, “and they pulled it out of the bag in the end up.
They keep pushing on no matter what happens, so it’s a challenge for us and it’s one that we are going to have to meet head-on and be well-prepared for it.”
Never a truer word said.