Done­gal mov­ing in right di­rec­tion

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Sport - - GAELIC GAMES - COLM O’ROURKE

TWO teams go­ing in op­po­site di­rec­tions in the League meet to­day in the Ul­ster Cham­pi­onship — Done­gal on the way down from Di­vi­sion 1 and Ca­van jump­ing straight back up from Di­vi­sion 2. Yet the odds don’t re­flect this. Done­gal are hot favourites and de­servedly so. Their per­for­mances in the League hinted at a re­turn to past glo­ries even though they only got three points.

Ca­van on the other hand only lost one game in their cam­paign but it was the man­ner of their de­feat in the fi­nal in Croke Park against Roscom­mon which showed up a lot of de­fi­cien­cies. They scored 4-12 but let in 4-16 and could have con­ceded a lot more. Ca­van were crit­i­cised in the past for a hor­ri­ble de­fen­sive style, but when the hand­brake was let off and they started to at­tack more the house of cards caved in.

A good team is based on backs who can de­fend first and last. There is a type of de­fender who is not in­ter­ested in look­ing good but car­ries out his du­ties. In other words they mark their men. They are part of a dy­ing breed be­cause the mod­ern game is based on flash backs get­ting the ball and join­ing in moves, giv­ing and tak­ing short hand­passes, maybe even a cor­ner-back scor­ing a point.

A pity the Gun­ner Brady is not around to ask what he thinks of cor­ner-backs look­ing to score. He would not eat his din­ner for a fort­night.

So for to­day Ca­van need to get their man-mark­ing right and keep Done­gal to a to­tal of 15 or 16 points. That will not be easy as Done­gal have new ta­lent like Eoghan Ban Gal­lagher and Jamie Bren­nan com­ing along. Paddy McBrearty had a won­der­ful League cam­paign and Ryan McHugh is bet­ter in sum­mer weather and fast grounds. Add in Michael Mur­phy, Odhrán Mac Nial­lais and Hugh McFad­den and it is easy to see that Done­gal are a team go­ing places; I ex­pect them to be in the Su­per 8.

Ca­van’s best player in the League was Dara McVeety and he may not be at his best af­ter in­jury. Cian Mackey will probe, Kil­lian Clarke will run hard and Gearoid McKier­nan can kick great points but what Ca­van demon­strated most clearly in the League was the huge gap be­tween First and Sec­ond Di­vi­sion.

When many of these play­ers met at un­der­age Ca­van had the ad­van­tage but the tide has turned in Done­gal’s favour at se­nior level. This is likely to be very com­pet­i­tive but Done­gal have im­pressed me in the League, de­spite their rel­e­ga­tion, and I ex­pect them to win.

Paddy McBrearty had a won­der­ful League

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