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Donegal using 2013 misery as a major driving factor

By Declan Bogue

The pairing of Donegal and Mayo at Croke Park always gives an opportunity to rake over old coals, but for the former's manager, Rory Gallagher, there is added resonance.

In 2013, Donegal came to Headquarters in a state of disrepair. The pressure of putting together back-to-back successful seasons had pulled loose a few threads and they burst at the seams with injury and fatigue.

After losing their Ulster title to Monaghan, they limped past Laois in the Championship before Mayo had them in their crosshairs, still hurting after the All-Ireland final defeat the previous September. The game was up at the start of the second half when Donie Vaughan set up Cillian O'Connor for his second goal, leaving the scoreline 3-11 to 0-4 with half an hour remaining.

The eventual margin of 16 points was the heaviest defeat ever of a defending champion. It was also the end of the Jim McGuinness-Gallagher management.

Gallagher recalls the dressing room at half-time, attempting to inject some energy into the room, knowing he was talking to condemned men.

"It was difficult. At the time you're trying to rally everybody and play each minute as it comes and try to chip away, but it just never happened for us," he said.

"It's not a place we or any team want to be. It's a very difficult dressing room to be in and it's up to us to make sure that doesn't happen again."

Presumably, the need for fire and brimstone-style motivation will be absent when the Donegal side tog out underneath the Hogan Stand for today's headlining quarter-final (throw-in 6.00pm).

"You can never take that back, being beaten and how we felt afterwards," said the former Fermanagh player. "You just have to grind your teeth and it tests your character and resolve. You can see the way the boys bounced back last year when it would have been easy for them to throw in the towel, but you just move on."

Mayo have completed five Connacht titles in a row and only needed two games to reach this stage while Donegal have played in five high-profile matches.

Gallagher disputed the notion that such a heavy schedule would leave the players tired. He explained: "Go back to 2005 and Tyrone played 10 games to win the All-Ireland. Playing games gives great momentum, the boys enjoy it. It builds a greater atmosphere."

However, Mayo present a totally different challenge, as the Donegal supremo acknowledges.

"They are bigger in the middle of the field," he said. "Aidan O'Shea is a huge handful.

"In 2013, he gave an exhibition in the middle of the field against us and it is a testament to his skill that he is in there now and he is up there as one of the top players in the country."

DONEGAL TEAM V MAYO: P Durcan; P McGrath, N McGee, E McGee; R McHugh, K Lacey, F McGlynn; N Gallagher, M McElhinney; M O'Reilly, O MacNiallais, M McHugh; P McBrearty, M Murphy, C McFadden.

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