DONEGAL DEFENDER Eamonn McGee insists the Ulster champions will have to improve on their last performance if they are to book a spot in next month’s All-Ireland football final.
Jim McGuinness’s side saw off Kerry in the sides’ first-ever championship meeting in the quarter-finals and with fellow Munster heavyweights –Cork — lying in wait this weekend, McGee insists Donegal realise the challenge they face.
“Kerry are the benchmark, and probably for the first day or two after it you’re ‘Jesus, we beat Kerry in a championship game in Croke Park’ and we’re there,” says McGee.
“But when you get down to it and we can watch it analytically, we weren’t up there playing well — we played well in spurts. When we look back at the game in the first few days, we’re saying ’Jesus, we did this well’ but then when you look back at it through the DVD or the video, you say ‘Jesus, we didn’t play that well at all.’ So we’ve definitely a lot to work on.
“It’s plain to be seen for all that we gave Kerry a lot of space at times. The goal, like … of course I’ll put it onto the other boys! But I thought that they had a lot of space to set it up and get into that position. There were times there that we just weren’t doing the jobs we were supposed to do. We did them in patches, maybe five minutes, and if we did them over the full 70 minutes we’d have been happy with ourselves, but we weren’t happy with ourselves when we sat back and watched the DVD.”
Now, the Rebels stand between Donegal and a final shot at Sam Maguire next month. And the defender reckons Cork are actually a step ahead of their provincial rivals.
“People that wouldn’t know a lot about football would just immediately assume that Cork are big, strong, physical … but when you look at it, you have to realise that they have some of the best footballers in the country,” he says. “It’s definitely a marriage of just physicality and very, very good football.
“They have some of the top names — Donncha O’Connor, Colm O’Neill and all these boys. They definitely are just a mixture of that physicality and football.”
Cork, of course, brushed aside a callow Donegal side in 2009 in the last-eight on their way to an All-Ireland decider. But McGee insists that result has no real significance to the here and now.
“Nah, nah, nah,” he says. “It was just a totally different set-up. Just complete night and day from the Donegal team that went out there and the Donegal team that’s here at the present. We were kind of thinking this question would be asked coming up here. In my own opinion — I don’t know if the boys would be different — it would have no bearing at all on the game. It wasn’t nice to get the beating, but you just have to realise that it’s just totally different scenarios.”
Since Jim McGuinness took over as senior boss, Donegal have bagged two Ulster titles and are on the brink of an All-Ireland final. But the county’s style of play has drawn vociferous criticism for the past 24 months. As Giovanni Trapattoni might say, go to La Scala for entertainment.
“We tried to do it for years, after I came into the squad. Some days we could go toe to toe with them, and some days it was just very, very frustrating. Listen, we could chat to you all night and we’d go around the barn, talk until the morning, about traditional against the modern. It’s people’s own opinion,” says McGee.
“I’m happy enough. I’ve two Ulster medals, and we’re competing with the way we’re going now. This is the way the modern game (is) … every team is playing it, like. Kerry are playing it … you just have to accept the fact. It will probably be in another 10/20 years it will be a totally different thing. We’ll all be giving out about this new thing that’s come out. This evolves the game.