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McGee primed for hard marking to pass Donegal's final test

By Declan Bogue

After Kerry lay at Donegal's feet, Jim McGuinness gave us all a taste of how they slayed the Kerry attack of Colm Cooper and Kieran Donaghy.

Final test: Donegal’s Neil McGee is relishing the challenge BY DECLAN BOGUE

ALL IRELAND FINAL

“They don't force the ball inside,” McGuinness explained. “They look for a lot of dinked ball, a lot of ball along the ground to try and play percentages and we had to try and counteract that.

“They were trying to thread balls through and we were anticipating that. We picked up a lot of ball through that.”

Mark McHugh was immense in clearing up at the back, but on the shoulder of Cooper, and even playing him from out in front, was the All-Star defender, Neil McGee.

Playing the Gooch in front. A high-risk strategy?

“There's no other way to mark him,” commented McGee at the recent press night.

“That's what you want to be at, marking the best. You don't want to go onto some other fella where you might think you will get it handy. As a defender you want to better yourself the whole time and you want the challenges.”

That's the kind of confidence that a player like Neil McGee now exudes. Whether it's Colm Cooper or Colm O'Neill, he enjoys the challenge. Relishes it.

When he looks back, he regrets the time spent only going half-tilt. That famous day in Crossmaglen when they left the Championship in 2010, was when a line was drawn in the sand, he says.

“There was a lot of stuff happening and it was all down to the players, there was no fault of management, management was 100% at that time, John Joe (Doherty), you couldn't get a better person and I suppose the players were kidding themselves.

“A lot of players took a long, hard long look at themselves over that winter and decided to go and do it properly. It's paid off for us now and it's honesty more than anything.”

It seems like a long time ago now, but the McGuinness era in Donegal began with a fairly limp League draw at home to Sligo.

What shouldn't be forgotten was that the point was secured with a goal from none other than McGee. He had pulled his hamstring and was shoved into full-forward where he scored.

While that put him out for four weeks, he has been the Donegal first-choice full-back ever since. With Mayo's rotating attack, it will be a change from marking Michael Murphy in training every night, but he will be well-briefed.

“It's something that we are going to have to be comfortable with and have to get used to.

“The detail helps but in saying that it's not the be-all and end-all, it's out on the field where it counts and I suppose we have to take that information onto the field.”

Fast learners, McGee and Donegal.

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