Donegal relishing a fresh start to their summer
TWO beaten provincial finalists are already out of the All-Ireland series, but Donegal have got over losing their Ulster crown and are looking forward to the start of another crack at the Sam Maguire.
Manager Rory Gallagher says the 2013 All-Ireland champions are fully focussed on a “second bite at another competition” which begins against Galway at Croke Park on Saturday evening. Gallagher says his players will be recharged after a 13-day respite following their Ulster final loss to Monaghan.
“We’d made up our minds before the game that, win or lose, we’d be parking the Ulster Championship,” said Gallagher who will be without injured Karl Lacey for Saturday’s clash.
“We’d have liked to park it as winners but that wasn’t the case, Monaghan were deserving winners on the day. Obviously there were significant levels of disappointment for the first few days but we’ve moved on now and we’re in the All-Ireland series and we were grateful to have 13 days to get our heads around it.”
The Anglo-Celt Cup decider ended in a one-point defeat for Donegal who had already beaten Tyrone, Armagh and Derry to reach the final. Cork (Munster losers) and Westmeath (who lost to Dublin in the Leinster final) exited last weekend after lacklustre showings against Kildare and Fermanagh respectively. Tyrone are expected to deal with Connacht losers Sligo before Donegal take the field on Saturday but Gallagher says Donegal intend to force their way into the All-Ireland quarter-finals.
“We’ve moved on,” he said.
“We had four tough games in Ulster and we feel that we did an awful lot of things very well in the Ulster Championship.
“We couldn’t pull it off in the end but we move on now and we’re looking to improve our performance level against Galway.
“We did so much but we knew we had a lot more to do and on the day we just weren’t good enough. We knew the final was going to be our biggest challenge to be honest – Monaghan were in their third final in-a-row and they are a very experienced team with a lot of quality.
“I knew it was going to be a challenge and we were disappointed on the day that we didn’t pull it off. Every game we play we look at what we did well and what we didn’t do well and we look to learn from it.
“We’re fortunate to have a second bite at another competition. There a thin lines, very small margins, between ourselves and Monaghan and on the day Monaghan got through but we don’t think there’s whole lot wrong structurally.”
Galway have shown they are a resilient outfit under Kevin Walsh this season and bounced back from losing to Mayo in Connacht by also beating Armagh and Derry.
“We haven’t seen them in the flesh,” said Gallagher.
“We’ve them on television and got tapes of their games. They beat Leitrim first and then came up a wee bit short against Mayo the second day.
“They’ve dug in and had two great wins against Ulster opposition and we know that they’ll be going in in a very positive frame of mind.
“It’s familiar territory for us, we’ve played there a lot over the last few years and we’re looking forward to it – it’s the place we want to be at the start of every year.”
Meanwhile, there is one legacy of the Ulster final that Donegal haven’t been able to put behind them - experienced defender Karl Lacey – who hobbled off against Monaghan will miss the Galway clash.
“Karl isn’t going to be available,” said Gallagher.
“Thankfully it’s not an injury that requires surgery in his knee; it’s a bit of ligament damage. He’s working away and it’s not a long-term injury but this week would be too soon.
“Apart from Karl I should have everybody.”