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Donegal will need to improve to win another Ulster title - Lacey

Karl Lacey has said Donegal will have to improve before their meeting with Derry in the Ulster SFC semi-final
Picture: Philip Walsh  
Ryan McCann at the Athletic Grounds

KARL LACEY believes Donegal were at their very best for 20 minutes against Armagh on Sunday, but insists their level of performance will not be good enough to win an Ulster Championship.

Buoyed by Paddy McBrearty’s early goal, Rory Gallagher’s side raced into a nine-point lead as the Orchard county had no answer to Donegal’s direct running and accuracy in front of the posts. The Tír Conaill men will now face Derry in the Ulster semi-final on Saturday, June 27, with the Four Masters club-man eager for his side to find another gear. 

“I wouldn’t say [that was the best we have ever played] for the full first half, but there was about 20 minutes that were as good [as we have played],” said Lacey.

“It’s about building on that and getting a full 70 minute performance because, as you progress in the Championship, teams get stronger because they have more game-time. That was Armagh’s first game out and maybe the Tyrone game helped us as well. As I said, we are just going to have to improve every day we go out and it will be no different against Derry.  

“I suppose the second half wasn’t Championship football, but we knew coming here it was going to be real high intensity stuff and Armagh have moved up a level from last year.  

“We knew we had to bring our A-game from the start. In the first 10 to 15 minutes, every man dug deep and we got the scores on the board early. We felt that was important. We’re into the next round. It’s only the semi-final, so we have a few more games to go yet.”

Two weeks ago, Kieran McGeeney dismissed the widely-held belief that Donegal are the most physical team in the country. The four-time Allstar says the Armagh manager’s comments weren’t used as motivation. 

“We don’t look into that sort of thing," Lacey said. 

"We just look at what Rory is teaching us on the training ground. We will work to our strengths and build on them in every session and every training camp we go on. We are working hard trying to improve. We’re not bothered by anyone else. If we can get our A-game and get our own game right, then we can compete with anyone in the country.  

“It’s not about sending out messages. It’s about getting the performance and we got that in patches today, but that won’t be good enough to win an Ulster Championship.” 

Donegal coasted to victory in the end, winning 2-11 to 0-8, yet Lacey was critical of his side’s second half performance in front of goal. While they scored just 1-2 in the second period, the damage was already done.   

“I think Armagh were one of the highest goal scoring teams in the League, so to keep them goalless was vital," he added. 

"We were a bit too cautious in the second half and maybe we would have to work on that to make sure we close our games better. 

“We had four weeks after the Tyrone game and we were able to recover for a week, take it easy then build it up nicely, but we are straight back to it in two weeks now. Derry look impressive and we’ll get recovered tonight and then get back at it early this week. We’ll look at the video stuff and take it up another level.” 

The 2012 All-Ireland winner also hailed captain Michael Murphy as the standout player in Ireland. 

“He was on fire,” said Lacey. 

“I don’t think there’s a better player in the country. You always hope it would be one of your own and Michael has done it year in, year out. He has nothing to prove. He is a fantastic leader for us and we are lucky to have him.”

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