Belfast Telegraph

Home Sport GAA

Yes, McGuinness' men can pull off an upset... but don't put money on it

By Declan Bogue

Everywhere you go this week, it's the same question. Earnest, sensible people in Donegal are posing it; 'Have we any hope at all?'

Oh, to be a fly on the wall in Johnstown House this past week or so. Donegal will have been cooking up something tactically, but whether it is enough to reverse the odds of 1/10 on a Dublin win is questionable.

On Monday, Kevin Cassidy described the scenario at half-time of the 2011 semi-final between the two. Donegal felt they had them, being 0-4 to 0-2 up, but did not push on and take a few risks. They invited Dublin onto themselves and they punished them with converted free kicks.

However, Dublin's Barry Cahill had a different take, saying Pat Gilroy changed tack from a foot-passing game to a running game, with clumps of runners grouped together so they could dish off to men coming at angles from their shoulder.

He feels that Dublin could employ this system from the start on Sunday.

In doing so, they will have some of the most composed footballers in the country on the ball. Their half forward line of Paul Flynn, Diarmuid Connolly, along with Alan Brogan and Kevin McManamon, are playing to a system that carves open defences.

No doubt Donegal will have numbers back in defence that will prevent a glut of goal chances, but if Dublin tip over a few early points, then sooner or later Donegal will have to come out and play.

It's then that their limitations will become exposed.

Michael Murphy may go to full-forward and this is a weapon they will use at some stage, but by and large Murphy has been well marshalled by some heralded and some less-heralded full-backs this season.

And Rory O'Carroll is no ordinary full-back.

There has been a lot of speculation about Colm McFadden catching fire in time for this one, but it is hard to see a man with just two points from play all summer leading the Dublin defence a merry-dance.

Either way, they are two different teams from that time.

Donegal have won their All-Ireland and the win in 2012 feels like the peak of that team.

In 2011, Dublin were only flat-track bullies in Leinster, eternally flopping when it came to the crunch. They have won two All-Irelands since. Jim Gavin has won everything available to him over the past two years.

They have a composure and a strength in depth unrivalled in the game.

If Donegal make a substitution, it will inevitably make them weaker. Whoever they put on, Dublin will have an answer for.

And when Gavin unloads the like of Cormac Costello, Jack McCaffrey and Dean Rock, how do Donegal cope?

Should the defensive phalanx hold tight, then how do Donegal stop the likes of Paul Flynn and Diarmuid Connolly hitting long-range scores?

And as Cassidy said, the footballing intelligence of Mark McHugh will be missed.

Yes, Donegal can win. Though, the inevitable 'but' after that assertion is too great to lay money or your reputation on.

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph