Ger Houlahan: Tougher tasks lie ahead for Donegal
The message coming out of Donegal following their annihilation of Cavan yesterday is very much ‘the team is more important than the sum of its parts’.
Cavan proved to be cannon fodder for a hungry Donegal team, who are now First Division standard.
Cavan are rebuilding but this type of defeat is hard to swallow.
Hopefully, from a Cavan perspective, the county board won’t take their eye of the ball and persist with the system that took them to the All-Ireland under 21 final.
They should take a leaf from Donegal’s book and invest in their underage, remembering that they are already very much behind them in terms of progression.
Donegal’s performance was markedly improved from their first match against Antrim and even though Cavan were extremely poor, Donegal showed enough to convince me that they are potentially the real deal.
They are undoubtedly buoyed by their under 21 success and have a great squad, they still have a self-destruct button as displayed yesterday by Murphy, and which could yet hurt them against tougher opposition, but Jim McGuinness is working hard to make the team realise that championships are won when everyone is pulling in the one direction.
As we said ‘adios’ to their talisman Michael Murphy, along came young Paul McBriarty who, as with Jamie Clarke a fortnight ago, stepped up to record the crucial scores of the first half that drove Donegal on to put the game to bed at the half time whistle.
Although McBriarty, Rory Kavanagh and Karl Lacey were outstanding, this was a real team effort with everyone, including subs, putting in a great, unrelenting shift.
Donegal’s victory is very much down to teamwork, where everyone knows their job and more importantly, everyone does whatever it takes to ensure victory.
They have worked hard on developing a set team pattern and have learnt the lesson of previous failed campaigns, creating a solid backline which include the highly talented Lacey and the redoubtable Neil McGee.
However, when they haven’t got the ball everyone is a defender and this provides greater assurance for the full back line.
The half forward line, in modern football, is now the buffer, working hard defensively and closing all the gaps that opposing teams wish to expose.
On the basis of yesterday and their National League performances, Donegal, to their credit are not one dimensional as they can also attack with regularity, racking up decent scores, especially against rather weak opposition.
Nevertheless, the ‘proof of the pudding’ will be next time up against the vastly experienced champions who have continually stood the test of time against all the previous ‘new kids on the block’ and ‘walked the walk’.