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Mervyn O'Donnell's all smiles after tactical triumph

Space mattered: Mervyn O'Donnell
Space mattered: Mervyn O'Donnell
Declan Bogue

By Declan Bogue

It takes almost a full hour, after all the team huddles, radio interviews and congratulations are completed before Gaoth Dobhair's reluctant manager Mervyn O'Donnell is freed up to speak to the papers.

And when he does, he wears a smile that could reach from Gaoth Dobhair to Tory Island.

He took this job because nobody wanted it, according to almost everyone in the club. And now he faces a fortnight of getting ready for an Ulster final.

"You take these games one by one and you take a look at the teams, you take a look at your own personnel and you try to get your match ups right," he said, on how he compiled a plan to take down Cross.

"That's basically what it came down to. A couple of the younger lads stepped up to the mark there, especially Dara ÓBaoill, I think he got a hat-trick in the first half."

He got to the juice of it when he added, "There was a massive space between the midfield area and the full-forward line and they were inviting us into it and maybe making us look better than what we were.

"I suppose we did our video analysis and everything else, but we didn't expect to see as much space between the forwards and the midfield."

Cross joint-manager Donal Murtagh seemed to be unaware that Johnny Hanratty had already been on a yellow card.

"Losing Johnny Hanratty - no-one of us knew he was on a yellow card, there was that much going on in the first half that we missed it," he said.

"We didn't know he was on a yellow card or we probably would have had him off. That's a mistake on the management's behalf but (after Hanratty was sent off) we gave ourselves a mountain to climb but we went back at them again and then they got a lucky goal.

"The ball came back off the post into Cassidy's hands and he stuck it in the net. Then we had another mountain to climb but, in fairness to them, we couldn't be more proud of them in the second half.

"It was 14 versus 15 against wind and at times we were 7, 8, 9 points down and they fought to the bitter end."

O'Donnell said Gaoth Dobhair simply had to go down the barrel of the gun.

"We couldn't sit back. We knew that and there is a lot of big engines there, Miceál Carroll, Naoise and them. They will run all day and it is great to have that bit of youth. And then you have obviously the experience of the older lads who can control the game.

"Sometimes you need to control the pace and we were able to do that."

Gaoth Dobhair has been running on hype all year with flags up everywhere around the parish, but O'Donnell says they will embrace the Ulster final build-up and all that comes with it.

"A lot of these lads are so calm," he marvelled.

"You see them all landing with their headphones on and their 'Beats' and so on. Nothing seems to phase them but about 10 minutes before the game is about to start you see the stare in their eyes and they are zoned in and what they are going to do.

"You don't have to say a lot to them either. They know their jobs and that's it."

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph