McGee: Monaghan will be rubbing their hands
THREE-TIME Allstar Neil McGee reckons Monaghan will be “rubbing their hands” after his team struggled to beat Derry in the semi-final of the Ulster Championship.
“I would say Monaghan will be delighted,” said the Gaoth Dobhair clubman.
“They are sitting in the final and they are a week ahead of us. They will be well prepared. They will be rubbing their hands if they are watching that today.”
Donegal’s two-point victory last Saturday night propelled them into their fifth consecutive provincial decider. Their joust with Monaghan on July 19 will be the third year in succession that the counties have contested the Ulster final. Both teams have one victory apiece. Monaghan were triumphant in 2013 and Donegal avenged that defeat last year. McGee was quick to accept that a rivalry has developed between the counties.
“Ever since 2013, it has been a ding-dong battle," he said.
"There has never been much between the sides. We had a good battle last year. It will be our third final in-a-row and they will be trying their best to make amends for last year.”
After the clinical manner in which they dismantled Armagh in the Athletic Grounds, some pundits predicted that Donegal would crush Derry with similar ease. But the Oak Leafers provided stubborn opposition.
While Donegal’s defence is often depicted as being almost impregnable, it was Derry’s rearguard which proved to be the more resilient. While Derry were able to engineer scores from relatively close range, Donegal had to rely on fantastic long-range efforts.
Derry’s wayward shooting and Donegal’s incredible accuracy was the key difference between the teams. Magnificent strikes from Michael Murphy, Martin McElhinney and Colm McFadden had a crucial bearing on the final score.
Commenting on Donegal’s high standard of marksmanship, McGee said: “They are quality players. We are lucky to have them. Colm [McFadden], Patrick [McBrearty] and Michael [Murphy] can score from anywhere inside the 45.
“We are lucky to have those kind of players. Derry made it really hard for us today. Probably without those quality players who kicked those hard points for us, Derry would be in the Ulster final.”
While some observers thought Donegal would make light work of Derry, McGee stressed that the reigning champions were under no illusions about the size of the challenge which was waiting for them in Clones.
“We expected that,” he said.
“We were getting built up a wee bit too much. The media just love to do that. They love getting in behind someone. It will be someone else next weekend. Derry had been in Division One.
“They were in the Division One final last year. We had a very tight game with them last year and we expected the same again.”
McGee now believes that Donegal’s laboured victory against Derry will help to keep the players grounded ahead of their rematch with Monaghan.
“Nothing came out of the camp but we knew we were being built up too much. The Championship has been low key so far,” he said.
“We have been involved in the two big games so far. Obviously, we were going to get built up, but that will take it back down to earth a bit.”