I only got to see the Donegal versus Cavan game on television on Sunday night and was quite impressed by what I saw of Jimmy Mc Guinness’s side. Compared to previous Donegal teams they displayed much greater unity and are a much better organised bunch of players who for the first time in many years are playing like a real team. Gone are the stroppy individualism and selfish play that contributed hugely to a decade of under achievement. They look focussed, committed and hungry and appear to be playing with a real sense of togetherness that has been absent for many years.
Their tackling, work rate, support play and incessant willingness to cover ground meant they coped with the loss of talismanic full forward Michael Murphy but they also showed they are anything but a one trick pony. In young Mc Brearty they have unearthed a rough diamond of tremendous potential who along with Colm Mc Fadden carried the majority of Donegal’s scoring threat and menace. They made Cavan look less than ordinary and following this very convincing win will more than fancy their chances of beating Tyrone. Indeed I would be very surprised if they don’t come into their semi final game as favourites. They beat the Red Hands easily in the National League and went on to win the Division Two title at Croke Park defeating a highly fancied Laois side despite having been reduced to fourteen men early in the second half.
Mc Guinness will of course be playing down his team’s chances in the semi final and attempting to deflect any sense of expectation from his players but he must be purring with delight at how his charges are performing. However there were one or two things about them that would worry me if I was a Donegal man. They have a tendency to foul a lot and get involved in unnecessary shenanigans that give the impression they are not for taking any nonsense. Their ultra defensive system and game plan will cope against limited sides with average forward lines but it will be interesting to see how they fare against quality forwards and strong running combative midfielders. They will find out a lot about themselves in their next match but should they win they will not only become favourites for the provincial crown but will also be seen in many quarters as Ulster’s real threat for All Ireland success.